Celia and Felix had the really good idea of choosing different topics to write about together. I was a little late to the party so I read their posts before writing mine and they were both blessings to me. I’m always encouraged by their faith and belief as well as stimulated to deeper reflection by their thoughtful writing. In my post I wrote about how important Christian community is to me in the experience of God and their posts, and their friendship, are perfect examples of that.
It was through an experience of God that I came to trust him as my Savior.
In my sophomore year of college I went to visit my sister and she took me to church with her. I remember being bewildered by all the procedures and routines that other people seemed to participate in so naturally. I also remember sharing the Eucharist with these Christians. We all stood in a big circle and passed the cap and the plate, tearing off pieces of bread and offering them our neighbor. I wasn’t a Christian then but I was still impressed and attracted by the ritual and its obvious profundity. That was an experience of God. I don’t think our ability to experience God depends on our ability ot understand and process theologically what is happening. Sometimes, I believe, it is simply a fact that the Spirit of God is present and so we experience Him.
But then, the next week, I decided to attend church back at college. A professor directed me to a Protestant church near campus and accidentally gave me the wrong time. So, I showed up in the middle of the sermon. Embarassed, I sat in the back row and listened. I didn’t have a bulletin, a Bible or a hymn book so listening was pretty much all I could do. Nonetheless, during that service I became convicted of the Truth: that God, whoever He was, and whatever He claimed, was real and right and true and, from that hour forward, the central and defining factor in my reality. In that moment I experienced the reality of the words of Romans 5:5: “… and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us.”
In the years since my conversion I have experienced God in a variety of ways: in church, in academia, in nature, in prayer, in Bible study, in His small but clear voice guiding me as I make life decisions. But the place I’ve experienced him most is in community.
Indeed, I’ve been blessed to be part of several great Christian communities: my two churches in college (one hispanophone, one anglophone), the church I attended during grad school (what up, Hope Presbyterian!), and the group I interned with in grad school, New Wine, New Wineskins, among others. As I prepared to enter the Peace Corps, one of my very biggest concerns was whether or not I would find Christian community here.
As it turned out, I didn’t. Not during training anyway. And I really realized during those three months how much I connect to God with and through others. I experienced the truth of the quote Celia included in her post on this topic: “The worst trial is losing a sense of God’s presence.” — Brother Lawrence.
But, here at site, I’m surrounded by Christians, including almost all the other teachers and most of my students. I love that my students care about their faith and ask me to clarify the difference between faith, hope and trust, using citations from the Bible, during English class. I love that I can attend church any day of the week here, gathered with fellow Christians. For me, Christian community — community centered around and grounded in the person of Jesus — is at the center of my experience of God. What’s more, I look forward to the day when my experience of God will be perfect and complete and so will be my experience of community with fellow Christians and we will spend eternity worshiping and rejoicing together, in perfect unity.