Love is NOT a Feeling – It’s an Experience

I just spent an entire weekend with somewhere between 300 and 400 students at a youth retreat focused on purity – sexual, emotional, and spiritual purity.  As a writer, you would think I would have this elaborate description of the weekend with specifics on how powerful it was.  I’m struggling to find words, though.

Each time we have a retreat, I feel as though it’s the best and most powerful one compared to all others.  This weekend, however, far surpassed anything I’ve ever experienced, and it was so intense I just can’t find the words to help you feel like you were there.

I am aware I have readers of all ages, from all over the world, and all with different beliefs.  I want to be sensitive to all of you when I talk about the weekend mainly because I don’t want you to think I’m a crazy person. :)

I grew up in a church where I never even heard about feeling God’s presence.  I was taught that he was always watching me (usually to scare me into doing the right thing), and I knew God was with me in everything I did (again, that was usually used as a scare tactic).  The idea of God’s presence washing over me was never something anyone had mentioned.  As I became an adult, though, there were times I truly felt God’s presence like his arms around me.  In the midst of chaos, I could feel peace from his presence.  This weekend was different, though.

During worship Friday night, I felt God’s love surrounding me, and I literally was lost in each song we sang.  It was a feeling I haven’t had in a long time, and I didn’t want to stop worshipping.  My 8 girls talked about how great worship was, but I could see some of them still hadn’t been touched by the hands of God during the night, and that was okay.  Each person experiences God in a different way and all at different times.

Saturday nights are always ministry nights at our retreats.  I come expectant for those nights because I know something big is going to happen within some of our students.  I came even more expectant this weekend because the enemy was working overtime last week throwing attack after attack at me.  I just knew it was going to be big, and I was not going to allow myself to be shaken by all the obstacles being placed in front of me.

We worshipped for somewhere around 2 hours Saturday night never even getting to the message because God’s presence was so strong.  The only way I know to explain my personal experience is just that I was worshipping with my eyes closed to avoid any distractions of people around me, and a moment came where I literally forgot I was surrounded by hundreds of people.  I heard the band playing, and I was singing the words, but I was hearing the words differently.  I was speaking them directly to God, and he was speaking them back to me (not in an audible voice, mind you).

What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.  What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.  Sweet friend, do you understand what those words are saying?  This old hymn is something I’ve sang in church my whole life, and that’s just what it was – words I was reciting to the tune of whatever the piano or band was playing.

Saturday, though, wow!  That song is powerful.  It carries power that I never realized, and as I sang those words from my heart, I heard the meaning and although my voice was singing these particular words, my heart was thanking God for his love and praising Jesus for loving me enough to choose to die for me knowing I was still going to let my selfish desires win against his plans for me at many points during my lifetime.  He knew I would do things I shouldn’t and even though he knew I would mess up, it was never enough for him to change his mind about dying for me.

That song says his blood washes away all the junk we’ve done in our lives.  Not only does his blood wash it away, but it’s the only thing that can wash it away.  His blood can take all the brokenness we’ve caused ourselves or others have caused in our lives, our hearts, our souls, and it can sweep up the pieces and replace it with something new and completely whole.  Nothing else can do that.  No one else can do that, yet too many times we try to replace our broken pieces with something that only causes more brokenness.  All we have to do is go to him, and ask him to fix it.  He’s already done the hard part.  He just needs us to go to him and ask.  Does that make sense?

Saturday night I felt God’s arms around me loving me and washing over me taking away any brokenness that I’ve caused within myself and making it whole again.  Now, years ago if I heard someone say this very thing, I would have thought they were insane, and I wouldn’t be able to comprehend what that means to “feel his arms around me.”

It wasn’t a literal arm around me.  It was a warm, peacefulness that only God can give.  This experience didn’t just happen with me.  At one point I opened my eyes and looked around to see hundreds of students and leaders basking in the presence of our God.  None of us were ready to leave that moment, so we all continued to worship song after song.  God was speaking to each of us in a different way.  Some of my girls were working through issues they’ve struggled with for years – issues no one else knew about.  Some of them were open about what God was doing inside of them, and some weren’t quite ready.  God was healing, though.  He was healing their brokenness they’ve carried, some since 5 years old.

I’ll tell you that I can say with certainty no one who attended our retreat left the same as they were when they came.  Lives were changed; brokenness was made whole; pain was healed; hardened hearts were softened; God was there; we all encountered his presence; none of us will ever be the same.

Have you ever truly encountered God?  You don’t have to be at an event like this to have an experience like I did.  You can simply be in your room tonight and rid yourself of all distractions and seek his presence.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you . . .

Seek him out.  He’s there, and he’s not playing a game of hide-and-seek.  He wants to be found.  He’s never going to force his way in, and he won’t come to you uninvited.  Invite him in and experience something remarkable.  You may have an incredible relationship with your parents and feel the unconditional love they have for you; you may be in love with someone right now; you may think you know what love feels like, but once you encounter this kind of love you will know that it is so much more intense than anything you’ve ever found with any other relationship.  It’s not just a feeling – it’s an experience.   I don’t know that there’s a word for what God’s love feels like.  A song by Chris Tomlin comes to mind every time I try to place a word with it, so I’ll leave you with the lyrics:

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God