Nothing exteriorly has changed (unfortunately, from my POV), but I have had a new sense of God's Presence.
It's both a more constant sense and a stronger sense. It has absolutely surrounded me at times. And it has had a new quality of solidity about it. I almost expect to be able to see it or feel it physically, but I'm not quite there yet.
I was thinking that the best thing about this Presence is that it causes me to remember to rest in Him when I begin to go off into my own anxieties.
But a new revelation came just a while ago. I found myself responding to the Presence by telling Jesus that I loved Him, but then I realized that that wasn't quite accurate. I paid closer attention to the feeling and then I identified it. It wasn't that I loved God, it was that He loved me!
That distinction may seem esoteric, but I assure you it is not. True love originates only from the Author of love. We reflect His love back only because He first loved us -1Jn 4.19. The order of incidence is extremely important, otherwise we are operating on soul power.
When Gibson's Passion of the Christ came out a few years back, I saw it in the theater and thought, "I'm glad I saw it once, but there's really no need to go through this again."
How wrong I was. It took me a couple of years, but I became drawn into a "Passion Marathon" a while back, where I simply could not stop watching the film each evening for over a week. And the parts that transfixed me, that I skipped around to, actually were the brutal parts - the scourging and the crucifixion itself. As I watched, I received a greater revelation than ever before that this was G-O-D suffering and dying. This was the greatest crime perpetrated in the history of Creation, and it was perpetrated by none other than GOD HIMSELF. Jesus Himself said, "No man takes my life; I lay it down on my own initiative" -Jn 10.18. He could have called twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but He chose the Cross. -Mt 26.53
So much for morality. As I watched this astonishing Sacrifice, my little moral world imploded. It wasn't that the moral framework that I had tried to build my life on - and that I had very effectively used to protect myself from giving myself away - was wrong; it was that it was inadequate. Morality did not have the power to save me. Love did. In the face of my desperate, pathetic need for Life, morality was completely impotent. It was love and love alone that drove the Sacrifice that brought me Life.
So as I continued to watch the Son of God brutalized to death, I realized the truth of Paul's statement
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.For if God Himself came and died on a torture stake, then nothing else is important except worshiping Him in every possible way. Simply put, my life was over.
Paul puts it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. -Gal 2.20So I sat there watching, and reflecting afterward, increasingly realizing that I simply had no more life; it was over. The "me" in me had been drained out. Yet for some strange reason, I wasn't dead, but I kept on living.
What was occurring was that the Holy Spirit was tilling the soil of my soul much deeper than ever before, and Christ's life was taking root at that deeper level.
If you grew up in a healthy environment where love was freely shared, it may be hard for you to relate to this experience. But if you grew up love-starved - perhaps you had parents who could not express love in a personal way, or perhaps you didn't even have parents - you will understand.
But really, even if you had a loving childhood, this experience is still open to you, because no human love is as pure or as deep as God's love.
So, I was in the kitchen making some cereal and reflecting on all this, when I saw, crystal clear, more clearly than ever before, the objective fact that I HAVE BEEN LOVED.
And what is my reaction? Perhaps oddly, I'm not jumping around the room. There is no shouting Hallelujah! I'm just sitting here reflecting. An old Catholic contemplative friend I'm thinking of would be pleased.
But I am filled with a sense of solidity. I feel to a greater degree than ever before that my soul is on solid ground. There's a sense of permanence, of unchangeableness. A feeling of satisfaction, like after you've had a meal that had plenty of the kind of food that sustains.
I really don't know how to describe it other than mere words. And I don't know where it's leading. But I do know that I cannot go back. Even when it gets hard, and I want to shrink back - and I know that day will come - I know my spirit and conscience will not let me.
For since one died, all died. And I have died too. And I have been loved.