I was alone in the home office of my old New England farmhouse. As I looked through the dormer window, the tops of the tall pine trees across the pasture turned pink in the glow of the first rays of the rising sun. I was alone in the silence, watching and waiting.
You see, it was the third day of my “people fast.” I had cleared my calendar for the week and come to God hungry for a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Like Jacob, I had covenanted, saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26).1 I had no idea what the blessing might look like, but I was tired of getting only a casual touch, then being urgently pushed to get back onto the frantic spinning of the rat-race wheel.
I picked up a little book by Dick Eastman called The Hour That Changes the World and read thesection about what it means to “wait” before the Lord. The waiting game is a time of heightened awareness of what is going on in God’s sphere, and of His involvement in the world as a whole, and in our own lives specifically.
Suddenly, yet gently, I became aware of another presence in my office. I looked around, thinking perhaps another member of the household had slipped into the room. But no. Like Elijah, alone in God’s presence on Mount Horeb, there was a “sound of gentle stillness” (see 1 Kings 19:12). I hardly dared breathe. I was afraid His presence would leave if I moved a muscle. I was fearful that I would lose the consciousness of His presence if I should be distracted for even a moment. I focused all my powers on lingering and basking in this sacred presence.
Then promises began to pop into my mind; “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Ex. 33:14). This promise was second only to the promise that His presence would go with me, for at the moment when I grasped the fact that He would give me “rest,” I felt a peace and calm come over my body.
How often throughout the Bible are God’s words to His loved ones “fear not”? A few weeks after God gave me this gift of His presence, a close friend and I were taking a walk on the trail through the woods to the shore, when she asked, “Elizabeth, what are you afraid of?”
I answered her question: “Nothing, nothing really. The promise that His presence is going with me and that He is giving me rest has taken away my fears. I can honestly tell you, right now, I’m not afraid of anything!” The only fear I could recall was the fear that I would lose that peaceful awareness of His presence. But again, a promise came to my mind. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
I remembered the experience of a young Ellen Harmon. In a dream she was allowed to come in to the presence of Jesus. She gazed into His kind face and was filled with peace and joy beyond imagining. When she had to leave and face the real world again, her guardian angel gave her a green cord. “This he directed me to place next [to] my heart, and when I wished to see Jesus, take it from my bosom and stretch it to the utmost. He cautioned me not to let it remain coiled for any length of time, lest it should become knotted and difficult to straighten.”2 Ellen knew this green cord was meant to represent faith.
As I recalled the story, I knew the significance it had for me personally. This gift of His personal presence wasn’t a gift He would take back. No, it was mine always. You too can come into His presence any time and stay as long as you like. As much as we long to be in God’s presence, He longs to be in ours.