Ever wondered if God is real? Well, I’m not a Bible scholar or historian so I won’t try to convince you with facts and verses. But what if I told you that I met Him? Yep, God spent time with me. Just an average person, who felt broken, was full of regret, and looking for something to make my life better. Sounds crazy right?
The experience changed my life so deeply no one will ever convince me that God isn’t real. Seriously, if you held a gun to my head and told me to say that God isn’t real, I wouldn’t do it.
I was born and raised a Catholic so I learned about God early in life and I had no reason to doubt that God was real. Until I did. I began to question why bad things happened to good people. I began to question all of the hoops I had to go through to be a good Catholic. I just didn’t feel anything when I went to church. I felt trapped by the rules of religion and began to think of church as a place to be judged. I started to feel rebellious. I couldn’t measure up and wanted nothing to do with God and his rules. So, I quit.
I gave in to the ways of the world and the belief that my actions and decision were on me. I just had to live with the consequences. I’m the one who quit going to church. I’m the one who made impulsive, self-indulgent choices to avoid pain. I’m the one who dropped out of college. I’m the one who disappointed the people who believed in me. I’m the one who chose to stay in an abusive relationship. I’m the one who drank too much. I’m the one who put myself in debt. I’m the one who manipulated people. I’m the one who convinced myself that it was OK to be involved with a married man as long as I didn’t have sex with him.
And as a result, I became the one who couldn’t sleep at night, had panic attacks, hated myself, was disappointed in my life, and deep down still believed that maybe there was a God but He certainly didn’t want anything to do with me. I made the bad choices, and if I wanted my life to be better, I was the one who had to fix it.
At some point, I started watching a TV show called Touched By An Angel. The premise of the show is that the angels would show up in the life of someone who was struggling or had screwed up like me. At the end of each episode, the angels revealed themselves and told the person that God loved them. I found myself weeping at the end of each episode and wishing that there really was a God who would intervene and save me from myself.
A friend invited me to check out a new church called Crossroads. Something about this church resonated with me. There weren’t religious ceremonies and they broke down the Bible in a way that I could understand. I returned each week, sometimes hungover, and would sit in the back with a ball cap on.
I didn’t feel good enough to hang out with Christians and I still believed I had to earn my way into God’s good graces. So I set out on a quest to be good. I tutored kids in an impoverished neighborhood. I quit smoking. I cut back on the drinking. I volunteered every time our church was doing something in the community. I started donating money. I even moved to a cheaper neighborhood and got out of debt. This went on for a couple of years. I began feeling better about my choices but I still didn’t feel different about myself. Something wasn’t clicking.
One day, I just said to God, “I really want to live the life you have for me, but I’m going to need you to show me how because this isn’t working.” I didn’t realize it at the time but God was about to answer my prayer.
It started with a six-week study that the entire church was doing together. Part of this study included meeting in small groups. I found a group of women led by a woman named Kristi. She was so welcoming and open about her own life that I found myself telling these women all of my deep dark secrets. They didn’t judge or condemn me. I shared with them that instead of feeling sorry about my consequences, I was truly sorry for the hurt I had caused other people and I didn’t think I could forgive myself. I still had doubts that Jesus was who He said He was, and I wasn’t 100% convinced that God was forgiving me because I wasn’t feeling anything different.
My small group started praying for me around forgiveness. And, I started praying and asking God to help me forgive myself. I admitted to God that I really needed Him to show me that he is real. I wanted my burning bush moment like Moses had in the Bible. I needed something tangible and I wanted to feel something. Thankfully, we have a generous and patient God.
It just so happened that part of the six-week study included a prayer experience. I had a nagging thought all day that I needed to go. When I arrived, I was given headphones and instructions for each room. I went room by room doing the activities and then I arrived in the nature room. I was instructed to sit and meditate.
This is where my story gets a little crazy. The experience was so powerful that I went straight home to write it down so I could remember it exactly as it happened. The best way I can describe it is that it was like a movie playing out in my head. I didn’t actually hear voices. I just had thoughts in my head that went along with what I was seeing.
My Encounter With God
I sat and closed my eyes. I could see myself in a room with a big pile of junk. It’s really dusty and there are a lot of cobwebs. There is a knock on the door. I open it and there stands God. He is an older man with thick, long gray hair and he has a beard. He reminds me of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead.
He walks into the room with a big smile on His face and gives me a big hug. He has a twinkle in His eye and he seems happy to see me. He tells me that this room is my heart and He is going to help me sort it out. We are going to find a place for everything and put everything in its place.
We sit down to go through my junk. We start with the different ways that I’ve been hurt by other people. He asks me to hand him the feelings I have about these wounds because they’ve been taking up space in my heart. The feelings are words written in black ink and they are in big, heavy picture frames.
I give Him words like pain, shame, anxious, helpless, hate, cold, angry, and resentful. Then, He tells me to give him the words that describe how I feel about hurting other people. I give Him shame, regret, guilty, hopeless, and sorrow. At this point, He has a huge stack in his arms that is so high I can’t even see his face. But I have a sense that He’s happy to carry the load as he takes it outside.
When He comes back in we go through these moments again and decide what to save. God explains that these memories or events will always be some part of who I am, but we can put them in their proper place and not give them a prominent place in my heart. He tells me that He just took away the emotions surrounding these people and events so they can’t hurt me anymore. They are just memories. They don’t define who I am.
He tells me that someday He may ask me to share these stories with people going through something similar to encourage them or help them to heal. At this point, my memories become photographs and we’re putting them into black leather photo albums. I can physically see that they have only a small place in my life now, and I have a place to put them.
God takes me into a huge walk-in closet and introduces me to my new heart. It’s like something you see on TV or in Oprah Magazine. I put the photo albums on the top shelf and God explains that since I threw out the junk and put the memories in their place, I now have this wide open space for His grace and plenty of room for the gifts he wants me to receive. All of a sudden God hands me some beautifully wrapped packages.
I open the first package and its grace. Grace is written on a beautiful ball gown. I gently hang it up in my new closet. I continue to open my gifts and they are forgiveness, wisdom, peace, love, laughter, joy and health. Each word is written on a bright, soft cotton t-shirt and I try them on for size and dance around in them. I love the way they feel. I look at God and thank him for all of these gifts and he points out that there is still room for more. I then see myself as a young girl jumping into his arms and hugging him tightly.
The picture starts to fade and as I open my eyes, I realize that I have tears streaming down my face. I also physically felt different. It was like The Grinch. My heart grew ten sizes that day. It felt real. It was personal. I had a conversation with God. It was like years of therapy wrapped up in twenty minutes. For the first time since I was a kid, I felt free and hopeful. I felt true joy, and I haven’t been the same since.
My life isn’t perfect because I have a relationship with God, but I am at peace. When life gets tough, I talk to God about it. When life goes well, I thank God for it. I sleep well. I like who I am. I no longer have panic attacks, and I no longer feel afraid about my future or spending eternity in hell. And, I feel worthy.
I don’t know what you believe about God or what led you to read this article. If you are seeking answers or want something better for yourself, I challenge you to invite God into your life. Whatever you’ve done, however far away from God you feel, regardless of your doubts, He’s for you, and he wants to be real in your life too. Take your questions directly to Him. Tell God how you feel and what you really think. And then take a small step towards Him. Your encounter with Him will look different than mine, but everything I received He wants to give you too. I promise you that He will meet you, but you have to make a move.
You can find Him in all sorts of different ways. Start reading the Bible, check out a church service, join a group, or download the Crossroads Anywhere app and follow the prompts. Or, it can be as simple as just saying a prayer right now. Out loud or even in your mind say, “God, I want to know you in a way that feels real. Please show up for me too.”
You can also click the “chat” button on our website, and someone is there to help you figure out next steps. God is real, and he wants to free you from the pain in your life and replace it with His goodness. You just have to ask. C’mon, you can do this.
What strikes you most about this article? Why?
What’s your experience with God? What do you believe about Him? Why?
What if God could exchange all of your hurt for healing too? Take away all of your shame and replace it with hope and joy? Even if you 99.9% don’t believe that’s possible, isn’t it worth a try in the slight off-chance it could work? What would that change in your life?
What holds you back from trying? List as many fears or barriers as you can. Then imagine handing that list to God and try Nancy’s prayer. “God, I want to know you in a way that feels real. Please show up for me too.”
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