The year was 1979. Phillip was attending seminary on the east coast and driving a cab in Boston in the evenings to try and pay for it. The schedule, and the traffic, was exhausting him. One late afternoon, while driving to the cab garage on Kilmarnock Street, feeling weary and worn out, Phillip heard a song come on the radio — one of my songs, actually — and the words, “And in the in-between time, when you feel the pressure coming, remember that He loves you and promises to stay,” washed over his soul. “It brought tears to my eyes and lifted my spirit. I felt a precious love that I can and will never forget.”
That’s the story of Phillip’s encounter with God. Like Kerry Livgren and Blaise Pascal, who remembered and marked the day and time they had an emotional (as opposed to only an intellectual) visitation from the living God, these are some of the stories from our Catch community about their own personal experiences and how they have marked them in their minds. The remarkable thing about these stories is how insignificant they seem on one hand, and yet how vivid and profound they are to the individual, because they know that what they experienced was not something they made up, but a real encounter with the living God.
Like Darin, who, in the fifth grade, wanted his lunch room job back that he had given up for football, but he was afraid to ask for it. So one night, he prayed for the courage and the opportunity to speak to his teacher, only to find out the next day, that his teacher had already picked him for lunch room duty. “I told no one about my plans or my desire to get my job back. Only God knew my prayer. I don’t know if I was more excited to get my job back or that something supernatural had just happened. But I can tell you today without a doubt, that was the moment God got my attention. Simple for sure, but very real then, and now.”
Or Peter, who had announced to his parents as a teenager finishing catechism classes, “Not until I feel God in my heart will I do confession of faith.” So he refused public confession, until one day, at a Christian college, listening to a guest speaker, all of his beliefs that had formerly been only precepts in his mind suddenly became real as the person of Jesus Christ filled his mind and his heart.
“I became vocal, questioned people’s lack of passion for social justice, and urged my classmates to do the same. It was apparent to me that we as Christ followers must impact the world. Instead of just pointing to the evil in the world, we should do something about it. I was a student on fire. Obnoxious, according to some.”
“That summer I did confession of faith in my church and my heart was totally filled with Jesus Christ! Fifty years later, I am taking a correspondence course that teaches me to experience Christ in me. Wow, what a ride!”
Sandy can point to one time in her mid-twenties, when she suddenly sat up in bed in the middle of the night, troubled and frightened in her soul as to her eternal salvation. If I died right then, would I go to heaven? Suddenly an unexplainable assurance of the presence of God flooded her heart and mind, and she has never doubted since. “I don’t think I doubted my salvation, but just needed that assurance [that] all was well. Since that time a lot has happened, but I still have that assurance,” because she knows her experience was real.
And then there’s Bob, who, like Kerry Livgren and Blaise Pascal, has always kept in his heart and mind the day he walked from darkness into light, simply wrote, “January 6, 1979.” For Phillip and Bob, 1979 was a very good year!
“So many people who discount the Bible and Jesus Christ think only uneducated, simpleminded people follow this belief,” wrote Martha. “I love hearing stories of people like Pascal who used their God-given intelligence to investigate Jesus and then speak to their contemporaries about their find!”
My sentiments, exactly.