The dawning of a new year is not much different than the dawning of any day, but that each day dawns anew changes everything.
When they were intermittent, my spiritual experiences would tend to come later in the day. My road-to-Damascus experience came about 3 PM. Subsequent times when I forced to say, “this is not natural,” usually started even later in the day. Such unnatural events took time to evolve. They would begin with my facing some issue I had. Ideas would come to me, but during the day I might be too busy to explore them. The ideas would keep tugging at my sleeve. Then finally I’d have time to pay attention to an elaboration of what was in my mind. It might be a few words. It might be some images. It might be that the whole universe suddenly decided to be devoted to my issue, from what is real to how does one best live to why do ideas keep coming to me, instead of everyone having their share. Then I would see answers everywhere, metaphors everywhere. And who rigged the universe this way just for me?
It’s a big topic to go into how these spiritual experiences went, who might have shown up besides God, what they meant to me, why I never decided to make them go away forever. There was something loving and trustworthy in these experiences I didn’t get otherwise, even if they were scary sometimes. In many respects they are no different than a lot of people have experienced and written about in the past three thousand years.
There is one aspect I would notice again and again, though. I would be up late talking with God, or maybe someone impersonating God, or maybe some metaphor for God in some worldly form. I might be feeling frustrated and confused, going to sleep finally because I couldn’t think of anything better to ask God. Then in the morning, the world was clean again. Whatever these parties were, there was no trash to pick up, no leftover food. I remembered my frustration and confusion from the night before. I was no closer to a way past that in the morning, but in the morning such frustration was just a small part of my life, while in the evening it was the key to everything.
You might think that would teach me something. I did. I was determined to keep my spiritual life in perspective. I put up with the side effects of antipsychotic medicine for a time to keep God in just a corner of my life. Wasn’t that the best way? Here was the reality of morning, where the world works by the physics and biology I learned in school, and I am free to live as I choose. Over there is the idea that there is a greater reality, a spiritual side to the universe beyond everything physical, and a God whose agenda isn’t limited to my being free. From that first experience when God assured me that I’d always believed in Him, no matter how much traditionalists would have seen me as inferior to them in that, God moved on little by little to give me the help implied in my questions, helping me with direction, strength and comfort. Then there was more, to understand God’s needs, His dependency on being loved, not as some Asian despot, but more personally.
If you read this as just words, it’s easy to keep it at arm’s length, but imagine if God in as complete a form as anywhere in the Bible teaches it to you Himself, not in a summary as I write it, but through all the ins and outs of how He gives love and receives love. This is not a little thing.
Throughout my spiritual experiences, there are a number of phrases that came to stand for my feelings regarding some aspect of them. “This is not a little thing,” was one such phrase, just as “this is not natural,” was another. People can challenge the validity of how I label such feelings, but they don’t experience what led me to make such conclusions. I can’t describe everything. I can’t remember everything. I’ve been surprised how poor my memory of spiritual experiences is even minutes later. They can be that dreamlike. Yet my spiritual experiences are completely different from what I actually dream.
As much as I would like to share my experiences with others, it’s very limited what I can describe. There was so much happening at times, with no scorecard about who was doing what and what is metaphor or to be taken literally. Yet there are some handles on the experiences, such as how ordinary the world usually seemed in the morning.
Rationally minded people would say aha, it’s the reality of morning that’s real. It’s real that the world is understandable, that there are no invisible characters, that to perceive those is either to revert to a childlike way of seeing or pass over into a paranoid way of imagining possibilities beyond what’s confirmed by our senses. I think I remember seeing the world like that in my twenties. Back then God was just something abstract for me, maybe the embodiment of the laws of physics, and the only thing that happened to me late in the day was I got tired.
Now it’s different. God is with me constantly. He and She use each of my limbs on occasion. I can feel the Spirit living in me in a way I never would have guessed Paul meant in his writing that phrase. God has a tactile presence, a voice, a will, a number of needs, all of which gets along with me, but are separate from me. And all of that is at a minimum first thing on awakening. Even then if I ask God a question, He responds immediately. God says He does not sleep. I sleep. God says He is not withdrawn from me in the morning. I am relatively withdrawn from Him as I sleep. It’s always been that way. So I have always seen morning as more real, because I was raised that real meant the absence of a spirit like God.
So while I don’t wake up that differently from the way I did thirty years ago, the difference that is there is not a little thing. Now I don’t just get dressed with external clothes, but by engaging again with the God whom it not long ago took me all day to find. Now we’re back together before I leave my bedroom. We stay together until I fall asleep. Then it’s off to my dreamland, where either there is no God or God is everything and never expresses Himself as one thing. Then it’s morning again, when I’m closest to feeling twenty, but decide each morning I’d rather be with God.
People decide for themselves which the true reality is, whether it’s the most minimal reality one can believe, the most fantastic or something in between. I believe that last one, not because I’m clever, but because God was persistent with me. He says I was persistent with Him. Some things are relative, after all. Some things aren’t, such as morning being the most minimal time of day. Where’s my coffee? Now do you want your whole day to be like that or not?