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It was an amazing event, but it was not my own personal experience and did not change my agnosticism. But it did something, and we continued going down to this church every Friday evenings (as it turned out, for next five years or so without missing once).
A few weeks later I saw a five day conference advertised for August on church notice board. Much against her better judgement, because she felt we were not ready for a full five days of praise and tongues and all that went along with it, I persuaded Iris that we should book.
The conference turned out to be interesting and entertaining but by Wednesday we were both somewhat disappointed. We had both gone with our own very specific questions. Iris was asking Lord what meaning and relevance of this outpouring of spiritual gifts was about; and I was still asking if there was a God. Halfway through, neither of us seemed to be getting any answers.
But that afternoon was given over to youth - a prospect which did not exactly fill me with enthusiasm. So I groaned inwardly and slid down in my seat when one of two youths who were to speak fell up steps to stage. Which of a thousand better places could I have been at?
But answer to that was soon apparent: no better place existed for me at that time.
I was completely stunned at witness these two lads gave as to how God worked in their lives. It had never occurred to me that God would ever use any "ordinary" person in this kind of way. Then, towards end of their witness, I felt something almost physical sweep over me from two young men on stage. I can only describe it as waves of sanctity, washing over me again and again. I went out of hall in tears, hanging on to Iris' arm because I could not see where I was going.
The period from there up to healing Mass on Thursday evening passed pleasantly enough. When prayers for healing began, there was an immense sense of power of Spirit present and some people were "falling in Spirit" even before they got to be prayed with. I joined queue in isle and when I was prayed over... experienced absolutely nothing! I felt deeply disappointed, but it was some years before I could admit to myself that I also felt jealous of what these others were receiving and I was not. And that let Satan in, albeit without my realising it, for I went to bed with just a sense of unease, yet sure it would be gone by morning. But it was not.
When I arose, it was still there and quickly became a deep, black despair. It was so black that, as I realised afterwards, depression could not be natural. It stayed all through two hours of praise during which I sat like proverbial lump of stone. We then went into chapel for final mass. I remained in utter dejection. I had gone there looking for God and was now, so it seemed, further away from him than ever. I felt that I had to do something, make some effort at entering into praise when Mass began.
I steeled myself for a superhuman attempt and as soon as entrance hymn began, made effort. But effort was taken from me as soon as I made it, for it was as if someone lifted me onto my feet and my hands went up in air. The great weight of depression fell away, just like a cloak falling from my shoulders, and I was praising God.
Then, it was as if I stood before God. Though without seeing him, he was, as it were, about twelve or so feet in front of me. The Holy Spirit. His love drenched and saturated me, quite literally, and it flowed out to others for days afterwards It was indescribable. All that everyone had ever said about purity of that love, its infinity, it all-encompassing nature, its complete endlessness was all so totally inadequate.
It changed my life completely, as it had changed so many lives before. And not one of those people could ever tell another what that love is actually like.
A K Whitehead Web Site: www.christianword.co.uk Experience: Over twenty years in Christian healing and teaching. Qualifications: B.A., M.Phil., Camb Univ Cert in Religious Studies Conditions of use: This article may be reproduced on condition that it is unaltered and that all this information is included.