If the only power Christianity had to offer was either psychological or philosophical, I’m pretty sure I’d have abandoned it several years ago.
But I’ve experienced what I understand to be tangible effects of God’s presence and His love, and because of that the person I am has changed.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I haven’t described how the process actually happens.
Soaking is essentially a form of meditation. It’s a time of silence in which one rests and clears one’s mind, consciously focusing on God and listening for what He might say.
That presupposes several things to be effective, though.
Recognizing God’s voice is an ability that takes cultivation, and it’s not something that is ever done without error.
The truth that needs to be accepted in order to hear God’s voice is that not all of the thoughts that enter our head are our own.
That can really sound like a stretch, but it makes sense when you think about it. Odds are pretty good that at least some of the reoccurring thoughts you have originate with your parents – internalized beliefs about who you are, what your strengths are (for many of us, what our weaknesses are).
This isn’t just relegated to our parents, of course. Many people say things that stick with us for years and years and internalize themselves in the form of thoughts in our heads.
It follows that if the spiritual realm is real, there’s no reason why additional thoughts that compose the myriad that run through our mind couldn’t originate from it.
So when God speaks, often (but not always) it’s in the form of thoughts in our head that are “spoken” in our own voice and which we’re likely to shrug off as our own.
To recognize those thoughts, though, one needs to understand at least a little about the character of God as presented in scripture.
God never condemns. He will never call you names or put you down. Thoughts that are like that likely come from other sources in the spiritual realm, sources that are intent on your destruction and not your well being.
It took a long time for me to recognize and silence many of the thoughts in my head that were forms of condemnation. “Great job, idiot.” “Brilliant, genius.” “You’re such a screw up.” “You can’t do anything right.”
My outlook on life has dramatically improved by actively commanding those thoughts to be silent and leave whenever they occur, because I now recognize them for what they are: lies from the Enemy.
God is desperately in love with you. If you approach His presence with humility and repentance, seeking His forgiveness and His affirmation, you’ll eventually learn to be able to hear His love communicated to you.
If you begin to read His words in scripture, they’ll begin to stick with you and “randomly” come to your attention through the course of your day and when you meditate in His presence.
Condemnation begins to melt away. Anger begins to slowly fade. Bitterness, resentment and depression improve as you become more in touch with how much God deeply loves you.
It’s hard to believe for most of us because we’re convinced of our own unworthiness, but that is the extravagance of God’s love: even in whatever mess we find ourselves in, He loves us. Nothing can separate us from His love.
Eventually my encounters with God involved more than merely the affirming thoughts of His love for me. They extended into genuine emotions, moments of feeling love and compassion, the same emotions that accompany falling in love.
Admittedly, those powerful moments are comparatively few, and in hindsight they often fade in significance as time goes by. But the knowledge of them, just like the memory of intimate moments with a lover, stay with me and keep me going when I remember to think of them.
These moments with God mean everything to me, because they’re moments we’re told should be expected within scripture itself. If God was only an abstract idea and not an actual Person with whom I could interact, Christianity would have no more appeal.
And yes, of course these experiences can be rationalized away. I do that a lot, too. “This is ridiculous, these are only my thoughts.” “I must be going crazy.”
But it’s at these points that the testimony of scripture and the weight of 2,000 years of Christian tradition reaffirms to me otherwise. If this was just some New Age trick I’d stumbled across, I’d agree I was losing it.
But these are practices that date back to the beginning of recorded history and have been catalogued in the pages of scripture and the traditions of the Church. Miracles have indeed happened (and continue to happen) that need explaining.
There are always alternative explanations to any reality. Ultimately it’s up to each of us to choose which explanations we accept as truth.
All I can point to in my own experience is the evidence of a life that has drastically changed.