I don't know how to say this with words, or without giving you my life story— but I will do my best.
As a teenage boy, my identity was wrapped up in doing things well. Straight A's, sports, etc. I could go into some of the pain that fueled this, but it's not that important here.
The image that I had of myself cracked the morning
after I tried marijuana for the first time at age 16. I was trying to impress a girl, and I didn't even get high! But I woke up with a recurring thought on a loop saying "What's the point? You broke the boundary." All or nothing perfectionism had a good hold on me.
So I went all in using drugs every day for a couple of years and eventually found myself ingesting heroine every day. I lost all of my money and my relationships, but thankfully not my life.
There were a handful of miraculous events that landed me in Teen Challenge in PA just before I turned 19, but there's no time for these here. Teen Challenge is a Christian-based 12 month rehab program for men of all ages. I was excited at the possibility of a fresh start.
Exactly one month in to the program, my counselor (David) got permission to take me with him to a revival meeting in Toronto. People called it the Toronto Blessing. I was excited to leave the building that we were cooped up in, and although I was sorta open-minded, I was still pretty skeptical about spiritual stuff and I was just using him to get away for the weekend.
We met some of David's friends at the hotel in Toronto. They were mysterious to me. They had a spark in their eyes, like a joy, and the men held the doors for the women. Us guys went to our room to chat before going to the first meeting, and I was in this hotel room when it happened.
I was sitting on one side of the bed and David on the other. I was still pretty shy then, so I was just listening as he spoke to his friend who sat in the corner chair.
All of a sudden I became aware of an AWESOME Presence in the room with me. It was so subtle at first, as if it was wooing me. In fact, it started in my right peripheral and I had to turn slightly to look. It was SO gentle. We don't have a word for the kind of gentleness that I experienced in this moment.
The Presence was LOVE. This LOVE was in, through, beneath, above and behind me. It was not like a normal being, angel, entity, etc. IT WAS THROUGH ALL MATTER. This Love held all things together, literally, and it was personal.
It seemed to focus its energy in front of me, like a face, but there wasn't a face. As it moved it's energy, I watched the room come alive, and I saw its LIFE vibrating through all matter. I watched the air molecules part or move out of its way as it moved. Yes, I could see this. My natural vision was enhanced by the knowledge and perception that I was given in Love's presence.
This LOVE spoke without speaking. It's very nature spoke. It knew me. It loved me. It wasn't a bright light, like so many others here have seen, but it caused me to Perceive and understand. So in a way, it was like light, but it wasn't bright. This Love was radiating the most incredible Beauty that cannot be expressed with words. I felt ugly in the light of so much beauty, and I suddenly became aware of what looked like a pile of sludge stacked on my right shoulder. It was selfishness, greed and pride.
Although it communicated simply by being, it was also intimately connected or married to the physical world. David was speaking about 4' away, and I have no idea what he was saying, but this LOVE seemed to take pleasure in using the sound waves of David's voice to communicate with me. It was as if LOVE was washing me.
Love spoke volumes in this moment. There was no time, even though David and his friend were there. It was NOW. I guess you could say time slowed down for me, but it didn't. Everything just was. Love was. I was. And Love was Loving me. If I could put into words what Love said, it would be this: "Here I am. I LOVE YOU! I've always been here. Just take my hand and come run with me."
I was playing Mr Tough Guy the whole time during this experience. For some reason, I'd thought that I was a bad-ass. I held onto this persona as long as I could, but I couldn't resist the love, acceptance, and intense beauty of Love's presence. So I broke. I bent my head down and my tears poured onto the floor. It felt SO good! Everything I'd lived for was a lie, and LIFE was so much bigger and better than I could ever have imagined.
When I raised my head, the intensity of the room had somewhat dissipated. There was still a fresh vibrating energy in the room, but the intensity of the experience had faded. I recognized time, but because of what I'd witnessed, I knew that LOVE was still right HERE with me.
At that moment, a woman knocked on the door. It was David's friend. She walked right up to me and said, "Here. This is for you." It was a book that she'd published with excerpts from her journal. She'd experienced this same Love in a different way earlier in her life and had written about it. Her book helped me through the rest of Teen Challenge as I fought the desire to return to my past experience in the hotel room. It helped me to discover Love HERE again in even more subtle and even practical ways.
I started having vivid dreams that would come true. So I started basing my decisions on them. In 2001, I saw my lovely wife and our boy in a dream. We'd only just met, but because of the dream, I moved back home to marry her. She's amazing. Twelve years later, we had the boy, and he's beautiful.
I told David about my experience 15 years later. He had no idea this had happened to me in the hotel room! All he says is, "Yeah, God was really dealing with you that weekend." :)
I must say that it hasn't been easy. The knowledge about LOVE came with a responsibility and a price. As it turns out, demonstrating Love is very different from just knowing it. Learning how to Love has been a continued process for me— filled with both joy AND brokenness.
Thank you all for sharing your testimonies. You are beautiful people, and your stories help me to realize that I'm not alone.