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We experienced an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit during our worship at Imani Sunday. It is such a gift when that happens! We know that God is present everywhere, all the time. We know that. But there are times when there is a discernible atmospheric shift in the room. I don’t know how else to express it. I don’t know a better word to describe it than extraordinary; extra-ordinary; the felt experience of the presence of God among us above and beyond the norm.
I treasure these experiences because they confirm, for me, everything that I know and experience relative to my relationship with God. They confirm the reality of it all. I hope and pray that they do the same for everyone present, particularly those who need that confirmation.
I have spoken with many LGBT Christians who have been subjected to the judgment of religious homophobes who insist that our experience of relationship with God is not real or valid. I have been subjected to that conversation, myself. For example, someone told me, to my face, that I was “pitifully deceived” by “false prophets” who preach and teach that God loves me, just as I am, and that I do not have to change my sexual orientation to be in peaceful intimate relationship with God. Whether that message is delivered with misguided but sincerely good intentions or with raw, undisguised cruelty and contempt, it can be a painful thing to hear - even for those who have reached a high degree of security in our relationship with God. For those who have not, those who are still growing into security in their relationship with God, it can be excruciating.
I have learned that it is usually futile to argue with people who are convinced that they are right about how God feels about us, and who seem to be convinced that they were put on this earth for the primary purpose of tearing down any notion we have that we are as much beloved children of God as they are. They are heavily invested in seeing themselves as “right.” More invested in that, sad to say, than in embodying the spirit, example, and teachings of Jesus.
The thing I can’t figure out is when did it become the duty of a Christian to judge others who embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior? When did it become their duty to tear down, demean, bully, and shame us? And, most perplexing of all, how in the world do they think they know what exists between another person and God? It is commonly acknowledged that we can’t really know what exists between two human beings in the privacy of their home. What would make anyone think that s/he can know and spew commentary about relationships that exist between other people and God - relationships that are, in no way, observable by human eyes; relationships which are birthed, nurtured, and which unfold and evolve in the innermost part of one’s being; in the very depths of the soul?
No matter. At the end of the day, it really does not matter whether someone outside of your relationship with God validates it. God, Godself, validates our relationship with God. And one of the ways God does that is by gifting us with those occasional extraordinary outpouring experiences. Those who have had the experience will immediately know what I mean. It cannot be faked. It cannot be duplicated by any other means. It is more than a feeling. It is a one-of-a-kind experience of being in the presence of Spirit when Spirit chooses to manifest God’s presence in such a way that you cannot question that God is there. And just there, in that way that God is always there; but there and moving through the room, enveloping everyone in an almost tangible presence.
For me, those experiences are how I know that, no matter who or how many people don’t believe it, I am God’s beloved - deeply loved, richly gifted, highly favored, abundantly blessed. So, Beloved, are you!