What do you find to be heart-warming when it comes to people’s journey with God? Mine is hearing about how people encounter God, whether for the first time or 100th time. Recently, I’ve heard so many stories of people experiencing God’s presence naturally and supernaturally, such as deep convictions from God in prayer, experiencing a deep sense of peace, feeling like they’ve come home, having dreams about Jesus, and many more… You name it!
Ephesians 5 talks about a generation who were “once darkness but now are light in the Lord.” It invites them to "live as children of light and to try discerning what is pleasing to God." Here in Ephesians, apostle Paul contrasts the fruitfulness of life in close friendship with God (called ‘light’) with the barrenness of the immoral life (called ‘darkness’). This is a call for a generation to wake up and experience turning away from their sins, dying to their past, and turning to God. As a result receiving the gift of new life in Christ and seeing his light shatter the darkness of their life before Christ.
I wonder how many of you read this part of Ephesians 5 and consider yourselves as ‘children of light’ and are awake to what the Spirit is doing? How many of you feel unsettled in your heart, confused, lost, or even asleep whilst finding yourself in search of an awakening in your mind, soul, and spirit? I don’t think it's an either/or answer. For some of us, it’s both/and.
I know very well that, personally, God has started a deep, slow and gentle awakening in me. Experiencing the gentleness of God the Holy Spirit has helped me catch glimpses of God the Father’s heart more, and it’s setting a small, invisible but strong fire burning in my belly – some may call that faith. Faith to dare to believe seeing a generation of students walk into church despite their experiences and backgrounds, to find rest, refuge and retreat in community, and to walk out into the world truly as children of light.
Do you want to know why? Because I am seeing glimpses of this awakening in students in my local context. A few months ago I met with someone of student age called Grace who later on shared with me,
“for the longest time I had been feeling that something was missing from my life. I couldn’t put my finger on it for ages, until I spoke with Libby [who is the student and youth worker at St Matt’s church in Bath] and one of the girls in my football team a couple of months ago. I knew she had a relationship with God and I was intrigued to learn more because that just felt right. It was a gut feeling. We had to make quite a long bus journey one weekend for one of matches and I asked her if she could talk to me about Him, and being the amazing girl that she is, she obliged with great pleasure. She showed me videos and spoke to me in great detail, answering all of my questions and being so understanding of my lack of knowledge. It was the most enlightening conversation I’ve ever had. Within minutes I knew that that was what I was missing in my life. A relationship with God.”
Due to Libby not living close to her, she put her in touch with me so that I could see her during the week and help her learn more by diving deeper into everything. My friend, Grace, later shared that, when herself and I first met “it felt so right. It felt safe.” I then gave her a Bible which she managed to start reading a few weeks ago and since then she has started praying and talking to God.
Grace describes her journey of faith as being on a boat: “Before I had spoken with Libby or Maral, I felt like I was sailing in rough seas all of the time and I was alone whilst doing so, but now it feels like I’m sailing in gentle waters and when it does become a little more rough, I no longer feel alone. It’s beautiful.”
A few things that stand out about Grace's story are that:
- Grace simply experienced God in the most ordinary yet extraordinary way.
- Grace had a Christian friend (Libby) who was open about her faith and who she is, but also someone safe she knew she could go to and ask questions.
- Grace found a relationship with God that was missing from her life through prayer and communion with God as well as in community.
To me, Grace’s story is just an example of many stories I am hearing over and over.
For you reading this, perhaps the first step is to start daring to believe. What do you want to dare to believe?
Or perhaps to start being yourself for people around you, like Libby was. Who around you is missing a relationship with God? What questions do they have? How can you walk with them in their journey of faith and investigation?
Or perhaps to start/continue your journey of faith and exploring, like Grace. Where are you at in your journey of faith? How do you describe your relationship with God?