That feeling stayed with me for months. In fact, I had grown so accustomed to that floating feeling that I started to panic at the prospect of losing it. So I began to ask friends, theologians, historians, pastors I knew, and nuns I liked, What am I going to do when it’s gone? And they knew exactly what I meant because they had either felt it themselves or read about it in great works of Christian theology. St. Augustine called it “the sweetness.” Thomas Aquinas called it something mystical like “the prophetic light.” But all said yes, it will go. The feelings will go. The sense of God’s presence will go. There will be no lasting proof that God exists. There will be no formula for how to get it back. But they offered me this small bit of certainty, and I clung to it. When the feelings recede like the tides, they said, they will leave an imprint. I would somehow be marked by the presence of an unbidden God. It is not proof of anything. And it is nothing to boast about. It was simply a gift.
Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved
Yesterday, I highlighted this passage in a book I’m reading because I found myself whispering, yes. I knew what she was talking about. It came to me one morning, about nine months ago, when I was reading scripture. The words penetrated deep and a sense of the depth of God’s love fell upon me; this sweetest of gifts was mine for many months.
It changed me.
I don’t know why, or how, or anything really, other than Love. And yes, after many months the intensity of the feeling faded and I am left with a lingering sweetness. A gift. Still, the greatest treasure in my life.
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I’m reading Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. I’ll likely finish it today, but it will linger with me for some time. It’s the story of a young mother, writer, and professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University navigating an unwanted path after having been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at age 35. The book is raw and real and beautiful.