The Living Water Lives in Us: Attend the Gathering of the Orders, Oct. 2-4

July 26, 2012

By the Rev. Anne Schlesinger

Have you ever completely felt God's love for you? I have. I have told this story often, because it is the story of a moment of transformation in my life, and I feel compelled to share my story with anyone who is interested. Perhaps we are bound to witness to moments of God's transformative power whenever we have them.
 
Once, while attending Annual Conference Session, all of us took one morning off from the business of the church to do the mission of the church. We were sent to different parts of the city of Sacramento to perform a variety of tasks to make the world a little bit better. I was sent with a group to work in a hospice for men dying of AIDS. I was thrilled to be going out into the mission field. I was proud that I was given a chance to make a difference in the world in Jesus' name. When I got to the hospice, I was given the task of weeding a long-forgotten raised garden bed. In the best of circumstances, I am no gardener. But surely I could weed, right? Well, no. It was one of those triple-digit, early summer days in Sacramento, and the garden had not been tended in a very long time. Only the hardiest weeds survived, but they were very thick. The ground was as hard as cement, and I had only a hand trowel and a hand cultivator as tools. I scraped and scraped that hard soil for perhaps two-and-a-half or three hours in the hot, baking sun. All I accomplished was a weed-less patch of about two square feet. It was pitiful for a full morning's work. I felt awful and completely useless. I had been given the opportunity to make a difference in the world, but the only difference I could discern was in my mood. I was a total failure.
 
We all returned to the buses that brought us back to the convention center, and I heard lots of exciting conversation about all the others had accomplished. Hungry people were fed. Repairs had been made in a great variety of places. People chatted about the difference they made and the people they met and what a great time they had. I felt even more miserable.
 
We soon arrived back at the convention center, and while most people left for a lunch break, I stayed behind, seeking solace in prayer. There was a prayer tent off to the side of the main hall of the conference, and in it were a small water fountain, a few cushions for seating, and some literature about prayer and meditation. The gurgling water of the fountain worked to drown out any noise made in the rest of the almost-deserted room. I sat quietly on one of the cushions and told God how useless I was. I knew I had not done one single thing to make anyone's life even the tiniest bit better. I was given a mission opportunity, and I completely failed.
 
That is when it happened. I cannot adequately describe exactly what it was – I don't think the words exist. All I know is that I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of God's love.
 
God loves me. I knew it to the depths of my being. It did not matter what I had accomplished or how badly I had failed. Time stood still. I have no idea how long I felt this way. I was sweating, yet completely calm. I was crying, but completely happy. God loved me. I heard no words of reassurance; I heard nothing at all. But I knew I was in God's presence in a way I had never before experienced. God loved me – of that I was certain, and nothing else mattered.
 
Since that experience, I better understand the words of John Wesley when he said his "Heart was strangely warmed." His words don't do justice to what I felt, and my guess is they do not do justice to what he felt, either. Words just don't work. But I know God loves me, and God's love healed, restored, and renewed me to a wholeness I did not know existed. The living water lives in me.
 
How has God touched your life in a profound way? Has your heart been strangely warmed? Do you have a story to share? When we experience God's presence in a deep and intense way, we want to share it, we want to get back to that "mountain top" place, and we need to sink the experience deep into our souls.
 
During the Bishop's Gathering of the Orders at the Mount Hermon Retreat Center, Oct. 2-4, we will have a chance to join with clergy colleagues to share our experiences and hear other people's stories. We will worship together, commune together, and spend time in retreat and relaxation. We also will have workshops to learn how to develop heart, body, mind, and soul health.
 
Don’t miss out! Register now at cnumc.org/register.