If you have ever experienced the nearness of God in your life – heard His voice speak to you, experience His burning, overwhelming love, it threatens to “forever ruin you for the ordinary”, to borrow a well-crafted phrase from a book title.
And when that Presence moves from you, even just a bit, it can be devastating, disorienting. Some of us become addicts, trying to somehow make that feeling happen again. And again. Charismatics are often known for chasing the feeling.
Others among us find ways to explain it all away and pretend it never happened, if an encounter with God was something that could be explained away by bad pizza or the last night of a youth retreat or a lack of emotional control.
I have done both, tilting more toward the chasing than the stifling. And both miss the point.
Leave it to our old friend, the patron saint of Evangelical Christianity, C.S. Lewis, to frame the sensations we experience of God in a healthy understanding of what what His immanence truly means in our lives:
Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean that it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be – perhaps not ever – experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.
(From a 1952 letter, quoted here.)
Simply…He is here. Whether you feel Him or not. Maybe, especially, when you don’t feel Him.