Last night I had an experience that I have never had before, I believe it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I know for some this will make difficult reading, some will doubt it, some will be bemused, some will think I was overcome with emotion or making it up. Which is fine, because I have been there and thought all of those things about other people on occasion (for which I am sorry...). Not because I didn't believe God could work like that, but just through my own human lack of understanidng and not being able to process it.
So last night I was at our evening service. The service was started specifically to have more space to seek God, with less barriers. As a team we have always felt that it was to be a blank canvas and that each week God would paint the canvas. And he has done. Last week was interesting for me personally, because throughout the evening I just had this overwhelming sense that God was so close to me that I could reach out and touch him, and yet I couldn't quite do it, like there was something stopping me. It was I sat with my hands over my ears for most of the night. It was so frustrating that I couldn't get there, but I knew God was doing something. And this week I have just felt so much closer to God, so hopelessly in love with him in a way I have never felt before. I have been given prophetic words, answers to prayer, scriptures talking to me so personally, like I have not experienced previously.
So it's fair to say I was expectant for last nights service, I just knew God was going to show up. As it happened, some teaching had to be covered first and so we didn't start worshipping and waiting on God until quite late in the evening, but when we did people felt moved. A couple of people felt Gods presence and then went round praying for people.
I began to shake, I could not stop. Only gently at first, but I could not stop it. I had to sit down, in fact I sort of fell in a heap, I just felt unable to stand. I wasn't sure what to do, then I couldn't sit still, and then the shaking got worse. I could not stop as much as I tried. I knew God was doing something and I wasn't sure what, but I found I couldn't even pray properly, I was just uttering the name of Jesus, and saying thank you over and again. Then after a while a friend came and stood behind me and said she felt to put her hands on me and pray. This is someone I trust completely. She is a very wise and mature Christian, she is not someone who gets carried away easily. As she prayed I began to laugh, then bent double, unable to stand and eventually fell in a heap on the floor, laughing uncontrollably and hardly able to breathe. I was completely overcome, all I could say was thank you Lord and call out Jesus' name. In all of this I was able to slightly detach myself in my mind (can't really describe it but this is the best I could come up with!) and I was thinking Lord, what are you doing? what is this about? And then it gave way to sobs. Not just a few tears but full on, chest heaving sobbing. By this stage I was on my knees and face down on the floor. In that moment I felt so unworthy, so aware of my own 'unclean-ness' in the face of, well I guess the face of God, but at the time I wasn't quite sure what. Then that passed and I began to laugh again. I have no idea how long this went on for but it was a while. Every time I began to think, ok I have this under control it would start again (I'm sure thats God's sense of humour!)Gradually it passed and I began to feel calmer, but still a bit drunk.
Those who know me, will know that I am not the kind of person to ham things up, I have had my own doubts in the past about peoples behaviour like mine was last night, I guess through lack of understanding. I am not someone who would exaggerate things, and I do not regularly experience God in this kind of way. I know that it was something supernatural because it was so uncontrollable and like nothing I have ever experienced before.
So today I have been processing it all. If it weren't half term I would have spent the entire morning in prayer. In the light of day it's hard to fathom what happened. I know it was a touch from the Holy Spirit but why? That's what is bugging me - what was God doing in me last night? What was all that about? Was it a case of releasing joy or giving me a realisation of my own nature? or is there more to follow?
I have been so hungry, so desperate for more of God, to experience him more fully, for ages. I have been crying out to him for more of his presence, of his love. And now here I am, having been touched by the Holy Spirit, (and I don't just mean what happened last night, but throughout last week), and I don't know what to do with it. I want to see the fruit of it, I want last night to be the start of God releasing more of himself, more of his love, not just in me, but in those around me, to see his love spread across our church and perhaps more importantly, across our communities.
I don't want last night to be an experience that I remember fondly as something that happened once some years ago, I want to be able to say, 'well, it all started there, that night when God released his Holy Spirit'. What good is an experience like that if it doesn't go anywhere?
A friend once told me about someone who years ago, had an experience with the Holy Spirit at their church. She would run around making animal noises, and when people remarked that it was strange, the Vicar just said, well we will see what the fruit is. And the fruit was huge, I believe she went on to work in prison ministry in pioneering ways.
Thats what my prayer is now, that this would not be a one off, that this would be the start of something. That we, as a church, would experience more of God and be filled up to overflowing, and that Gods love would flow out of us to those around us. That there would be good and abundant fruit. I don't want to strive for more of Gods presence, but I am so hungry for more. I see the need around me and I just long for God to reach out to those who are in need. Please Lord let this be the start of that.