My first ‘spiritual' experience of the Holy Spirit’s immediate presence occurred back in March. That first experience of the intimate love of God opened my eyes to what it is like to be totally detached from the material world, and I was introduced to a spiritual realm where the only focus is one’s relationship with God, very similar to my perception of Heaven really.
Unfortunately the whole experience occurred at work, which forced me to restrict the emotional extent of the experience, but it was still extremely intense. It’s so hard to put into words, but I distinctly remember thinking that the whole world could disintegrate around me and I wouldn’t care. In fact, in the emotion of the experience I really didn’t have a care for anything else, everything faded into total insignificance; all the troubles at work, depression in my personal life, financial stress etc; the only thing that seemed to be of any importance was holding onto that raw, deep and unfettered love from God. During the experience I turned wholly apathetic towards the work colleagues who were causing me grief, and I felt that neither my possessions nor any of my life goals held any value, in fact these things seemed to be a distinct hindrance to being able to hold onto this spiritual high.
It was a stunningly liberating experience, and also the most amazing high! Completely dream-like to be honest. The only way to actually live out this type of spirituality would be to sequester myself away from the world in some kind of remote monastery, in a manner similar to the ancient desert ascetic monks like Saint Antony.
And yesterday I experienced something similar again. Although it was far less intense, it’s application to my life was much broader. Also, after having spent a few months cogitating the revelations that God was imparting on me, I felt that the experience yesterday made far more sense to me, it seemed to be a far more practical ‘spirituality’ to adapt to my normal life.
There were two prominent revelations that were in my mind. Firstly all material things totally lost it’s allure, and mammon held no more temptation. I felt a neutral response to material stuff, whereas before material things took on a more negative attribute.
Secondly, a deep and humble love for those around me manifested, even for those who held animosity towards me. Whereas before I felt apathy, this time I felt positive ‘love’. This love was so powerful and real that I even desired for people to show me hostility or acrimony just so that I could show them the Christ-like love that was welling inside me. The cessation of feeling animosity towards those who hurt me was utterly liberating.
These spiritual experiences presented a type of living that was categorically different to the way that I once lived. It feels like a different ‘level’ of living, where you can only be in one, either the spiritual or the material. The two seem mutually exclusive. But having said that, I feel that my current grasp on this spiritual level is only partial, and I find myself slipping back to the material level from time to time. But whenever I do slip, God always rescues me and hits me with another wave of His love which immediately elevates me back to the spiritual.
The second experience that I described above is a practical type of spirituality that I could implement into my life, and in hindsight He has been preparing me for it in the last few months. In fact it seems remarkably similar to the spirituality that David and Solomon sung about, and that which Christ taught and which the first Christians embraced.
It seemed so foreign to me before, but makes so much sense now. It’s like what they say about love songs, that love songs only really hit you and make total sense once you yourself are in love. It’s seems to be the same with spirituality, the following verses now make so much more sense to me, they really speak to my soul.
“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” Psalm 63:1
“there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee” Psalm 73:25
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 3:13-15
“My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver” Proverbs 8:19
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4
Those verses describe a yearning for God in which all other material pursuits dim into the background. Nothing else matters. That is what I have been experiencing, material stuff seems to be little more than an annoyance and even hindrance. It’s not a hatred of material stuff, but more so an apathy toward it. Below are just a few verses which teach a detachment from the material world.
“go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” Matthew 19:21
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:9
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” Acts 2:44-46
“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 NIV
While I certainly had always seen the truth of the verses above and paid lip service to them, the fact is that I was not living in the manner that they describe. My attachment and desire for material possessions and pursuing financial stability were the focus of my life. This was evidenced by frustration at things braking, and stress over financial matters. I was simply not trusting that God was in control.
I found that it was one thing to say that I served God and not money, but it was another thing to actually live that way. The simple fact was that I was blindly pursuing mammon, and I was only letting God fill the gaps.
I can be sure that I have now mostly detached from the material level because I rarely stress and fret about things, no matter what happens. It feels so good now that all my actions are dictated by my faith that God has things in control, the following verses perfectly echoes how I now trust God:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34
I have heard many Christians describe the stage that I am now going through as an ‘intimacy stage’ of Christianity, and that mature Christians grow out of this intense passion, love and zeal. To be brutally honest, this sounds to me like nothing more than a copout from ‘mature’ Christians who have simply chosen to let go of the intimacy. This may or may not be true, but as far as I am concerned, I will not let go of this intimacy with God, and forever I will praise Him, lifting up my hands to Him in prayer! He truly satisfies me more than the richest feast! I will always praise Him with songs of joy! It is a little emasculating to admit this; but I couldn’t help but read Psalm 63 with without tears rolling down my eyes. My own heart’s desires are so perfectly echoed by the Psalms. It's such an amazing change from my old self.