Below are a few paragraphs from my book, Searching for Love, that describe the first time I ever felt God's arms around me. I am currently writing something that will refer to this.
Another friend I was visiting had taken an incredible spiritual journey and I was looking forward to spending time with her. I thought we would spend our two days together talking and we did lots of that, but she had a very busy schedule and invited me to join in her activities. I agreed, wondering what else God had in store for me.
One event was her centring prayer class. She had tried to explain it to me and was, I think, a bit nervous that I might misunderstand or not “get” it. However I had already been introduced to the concept by a friend back home and was intrigued so I was eager to join her class. In fact, the night before, I got so sick with altitude sickness that I became convinced God wanted me at that class and that the enemy was doing all he could to keep me away.
The idea of centring prayer is that, instead of coming to God with questions, requests and other agendas, we come to God merely to be in his presence. Those who promote this form of prayer would never suggest that other forms of prayer should be disregarded; on the contrary. Rather, the simple act of regularly coming into God’s presence for no other reason than to enjoy him can have a life-changing effect on a person. After one session, I agree. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have had!
The leader was somewhat concerned that I might not be able to handle 40 minutes of absolute stillness and quiet. The class was level four and the women had started out slowly months or years before. I figured that at the very least I could spend the time talking with God and concluded that God wanted me there, that he was providing me an opportunity for something about which he’d already been talking to me and I should try it.
I decided that if I was to be in God’s presence (which we always are anyway, there’s nothing we can do to escape being there), I needed a picture in my head of what that looked like. For over a year, I had been trying to imagine what it would be like to be cuddled in God’s lap. I hadn’t been able to do it.
Leanne Payne, in Listening Prayer and other books, talks about the importance of having a holy imagination. I didn’t understand when I first read it. I knew I had a very unholy imagination, one that refused to be reigned in, but in this time of prayer with my friend and her classmates, I experienced something new. I was able to imagine myself sitting on God’s lap, my head pressed against his chest and his enormous arms enveloping me. I spent the entire 40 minutes cuddled up with him like that, gently letting all thoughts but the one phrase, “He loves me,” move through and out of my head without dwelling on them. I think I had a smile on my face the whole time.
I had never experienced anything so incredible in my life. I finally knew what it was like to be loved, treasured, valued, wanted, held; no other arms could give me what he was giving me; no one else could satisfy me as he was; all my imaginations of the past were filthy rags compared with the few minutes I spent in my imagination with God that day. I knew, when it was over, that this was one experience I would repeat often and I have. Oh! What wonderful bliss! As I experienced this time with God, all other experiences and imaginations paled and lost their attractiveness. I could see that as this became an integral part of my life, in a way I had never known before, God would become all for me.
See, I’d known that God’s love was all I needed, that God, in all my needs, was all I needed, but I hadn’t truly believed it because I’d never really experienced it. It is amazing how we can know things in our heads, believe that they are true, and yet not really believe them in a way that makes any difference in the way we act, think or feel.