Christmas season is the time of year when we remember Immanuel, God with us. But when was the last time you felt like you were actually experiencing God with you? In the hustle and bustle of holiday parties, Christmas shopping, and extra volunteering, it can be easy for us to forget Immanuel. Maybe a better question to ask when you’re longing to experience God is: When was the last time you remembered to be completely quiet and still? I’ll explain.
A few months ago, I had the blessed opportunity for a 30-year reunion with some very special college friends. My college roomie found us all on Facebook and began planning an amazing weekend getaway for us! Another friend offered to host all of us at her home near Estes Park, Colorado. We began anticipating catching up with lots of fun and laughter late into the night. Old times.
Indeed, it was all of that and more.
Experiencing God as Immanuel
One evening, we decided to travel up the mountain to Bear Lake, a perfect spot for taking in God’s beautiful creation. As we wound our way up the mountain, thick fog settled in low and the first snow of the season decided to fall. Although beautiful and peaceful, it would almost completely hinder our view of Bear Lake. We still felt the journey to the lake would be worth our time and effort.
As we pulled into the parking lot, the last of the vehicles were loading up and pulling away. We’d likely be the only ones there in the falling snow with darkness soon to follow. We bundled up and began the trek down the path to the lake.
The pines towered over and around us as we eventually reached the shore. The slushy snow continued falling. Heavy mist rose from the surface of the water, and clouds shrouded the mountain peaks. As we stood on the bank, I tried focusing my eyes through the mist. Suddenly, something in the atmosphere seemed to change. My senses were heightened with an eager anticipation of something very special. In a moment, I knew it was the presence of God!
Before I had a chance to even think about what was happening, I turned to the others walking and talking close by and said, “Don’t talk. Listen!” Quickly, I turned back toward the foggy lake and we all stood completely still and quiet, listening to the silence. As the seconds went by, I was increasingly aware of the literal presence of Almighty God, Creator of all of this beauty. In those moments, I knew He had led us there alone to experience His presence and sense His majesty and power. It was as if He was saying to us, “Can you see Me, even in the mist? Can you feel Me? Do you recognize Me?”
My response was that of awe, fear, reverence, wonder, and excitement all mixed together. As I stood still, seemingly frozen, I had the urge to fall on my knees in worship of Him. I was afraid to move as if the moment might be interrupted and lost. I didn’t dare. I stood still, barely breathing, as tears rolled down my cheeks.
I was overcome with the reality of Immanuel–God with us!
Experiencing God Everywhere
That experience was a rare moment. But it left me with a thirst to pursue experiencing God more. Why don’t I always recognize God’s presence with me? We know He is with us. Why is experiencing God often so difficult? Maybe the answer is because we’re not too good at pursuing and creating stillness. The mountain-top lake was serene. We quieted ourselves. We heard His whisper. We experienced Him.
Is experiencing God possible for me now that I’m home again, where I don’t have time to withdraw myself from the chaos? Of course. This year, I’ve learned the value of stillness—of finding a quiet place or quiet hour like Jesus often did. I’ve learned to quiet myself, in body and mind, so I can hear the gentle whisper of our loving Father more often and recognize His presence. I learned that when we are still, His presence might be more tangible. I encourage you also to still yourself in God’s presence. He longs to renew your strength that you may run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.