Lent is a time of preparation which can lead to a heightened awareness of the presence of God in our lives, a presence that can go unnoticed when we have our faces buried in our work or our phones. When we turn away from those distractions, we have a real opportunity to see God in our everyday. Sometimes those moments are moving and powerful beyond description. That’s what I call a God moment.
A God moment can be a moment, an hour, or an hour that seems like a moment. Regardless, it is a very personal, deeply spiritual, and quintessentially moving experience. Mine has stayed with me for more than 40 years.
From the beginning:
I learned to play the guitar in high school. I fell in love with the instrument and played every chance I had, often falling asleep at night with my guitar in my hands.
After graduation, I continued my schooling at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. I attended Mass at the Newman Center – St. Augustine University Parish. The year was 1976, and the church was new and lacked a lot of church identifiers, like kneelers (there were folding chairs), stained glass, or a permanent altar. Think of a parish hall with commercial carpeting, and an altar brought in for Mass.
There was no organ, either. Music was provided by a dozen students with guitars and voices singing and playing with great spirit and enthusiasm. The first time I saw them I knew I wanted to be a part of that group, with the connection being my guitar. Following Mass, I walked up to the leader (she was a staff member) and told her I would like to join and I was in. It was as good as it gets, playing an instrument I loved in a place I loved with people whom I grew to love.
Our group made a Lenten retreat near the very cold and snowy Spring Green, Wisconsin. This was no five star resort, and our weekend stay was a BYOB weekend – Bring Your Own (sleeping) Bag. Floor space was abundant, as there were no beds. Or rooms, for that matter. Just a big, open space that accommodated a dozen university students, a music minister, and a priest.
What happened between Friday night arrival and Sunday morning Mass escapes my memory, but what happened during Mass is burned in my very being forever.
When we awoke early Sunday morning, it was so very cold that we could see our breath and nobody wanted to get out of their bag. Our priest managed to coax us all into a circle where he lit a single candle and began celebrating Mass.
We were a group of students in our late teens / early 20s who were two days without showers or enough sleep, shoulder to shoulder in this circle, the candle in the middle, praying together – “Our Father, who art in heaven ….”
All at once the entire room and everyone in it was filled with a presence so powerful as to be both beautiful beyond words and frightening beyond imagination. It was at this moment that I knew without any doubt or question that God was real, and He was sitting in that circle with us. It was literally breathtaking and brings me to tears today as I retell this story.
I remember this so vividly. It was so cold at the start of Mass because there was no central heat and nobody had built a fire in the stove, yet the presence of God’s Holy Spirit warmed the whole space and filled our souls.
Whatever words I use fall far, far short of the power, beauty, and fear that was among us that cold February morning in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
This was my God moment. I have been blessed with being able to go back to that moment many times since then and once again experience the absolute holiness of that Sunday morning long ago.
This Lent, as you prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord, pay close attention to how things around you change and you become keenly aware of God’s presence. Your God moment could be right in front of you. Have you had a God moment and want to share it? I would love to hear about it.