I’ve talked before about a short-term mission trip I participated in that unexpectedly led our small team to Erfurt, Germany. Erfurt, where Martin Luther attended seminary, had been part of East Germany from 1945 to 1989. The church we visited there had previously been a Communist Party social hall.
Thirteen people had been killed by a gunman at a local high school. Without anyone really understanding why, our team was diverted from its packed schedule to meet with the young pastor at the church.
What happened while we interviewed him, sitting in a pew in the church sanctuary, still mystifies me. But the three of us – the pastor, me the interviewer, and the cameraman – experienced something overwhelming.
With the school tragedy just a few blocks away, we had been interviewing the pastor about his ministering to the parents, teachers and children when something surrounded us, silenced us, and led the three of us to individually and simultaneously begin to weep.
Emotion was being expressed, but it wasn’t emotion that surrounded us. It was a presence. It wasn’t warm and loving; at first it was terrifying. And then humbling. And then calming and secure, producing in us an exhausted resolve.
Silence followed. The logical question was, “What was that?” But we knew, and the knowledge itself was a thing of wonder.
Brennan Manning, in The Furious Longing of God, actually describes what happened to us in that small church in Erfurt.
“Contemplation of the furious longing of God is elevated to a dramatic level in those rare and unforgettable moments when our faith, hope, and love are raised to an unprecedented level by the Holy Spirit’s active intervention, much like being in (a) boat when a storm hits. We are plunged into mystery… Self-consciousness and self-awareness disappear. We are in the presence of the ineffable Mystery above all creatures and beyond all telling.
“These are moments of truth. You are alone with The Alone. God’s tender feelings for you are no longer dry knowledge.”
That describes what happened. I’ve never had the desire to repeat the experience.
Once was more than sufficient.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing The Furious Longing of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Unimaginable Love,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.