One summer evening when I was five, I went to my room. The window was open. The air was still, and there was the occasional yellow smudge of a lightning bug in the darkness, out there in the yard.
Occasionally, a small beetle would fly into the window screen with a plunk. The light was turned off in my room, and I stood there in the dusky glimmer, my bare feet aware of the wooden floor. My bed was near the open window.
For a while, I observed the tiny yellow lights, fascinated with how they lit and glowed, dipped down, then up, then disappeared.
That summer evening when I was five, I had just asked my mother how we might communicate with God.
In Sunday School, I was fascinated with the story of the biblical prophet, Samuel. He was a boy like me when, one night while he was resting in his darkened room, he heard God calling his name.
And each Sunday I listened as the pastor at our church reminded us that Jesus will return someday, and I would go to my mother for answers.
She was a firm believer that each one of us can and should daily communicate with Him. I still remember her words.
She said, “We should be very still and reach out to Him with our most honest thoughts.”
“Maybe I should pray to ask Jesus to come back,” I said. My mother had fascinated me with her descriptions of what an exciting occasion that would be.
So I padded barefoot to my room, stood breathing, a little scared for what I was about to do. I watched the lightning bugs, listened to the crickets, felt a breath of breeze from the open window. Maybe even this was the breath of God?
I threw myself flat on the bed and cried out with my entire being—not in spoken words but with silent, yearning words pushing deep inside. With such desperate force, I pushed these words out toward what I sensed in the intricate mystery of the mountain night outside my window.
“Come back NOW, I shouted from a place deep inside myself.”
In my mind, this was a message to Jesus and to God.
I will always remember the immediate, powerful glow I felt burst deep within me then. It was as though the sun had just come out from behind the clouds and had somehow focused all its best, warmest, most joyous rays upon me.
So, yes. I had begun to be aware of this presence, even in my misery at kindergarten when I didn’t understand the activity book directions and felt shame for the messiness of my work. Or I felt confused when a sudden rage swept over me after Roger, proclaiming himself to be cowboy star Roy Rogers, poked me in the nose with his fist, and I immediately jumped him, grabbed by a rage I didn’t understand.
Throwing myself face down on my bed and saying, “Come back NOW” was the best I could do to follow my mother’s advice to reach out to God with my most honest thoughts.
I will never forget my five year-old year and the night I threw myself face down on my bed, there in the dusky light, listening to crickets and the tap of beetle bugs flying into the window screen, smelling the scents of hay and grasses, and mesmerized by the dip and rhythms of the lightning bugs as their tails lit yellow when they were rising on the current of the air. I will never forget that powerful rush of intense joy in response to my desperate plea to God, reaching out the best way I knew how.
That experience set me on a lifelong quest to experience the presence of God and the reality that we can each of us reach with this instinctive part of ourselves and literally touch this presence, this entity.
Sadly, today it is increasingly rare that people in our culture even believe this is true. We are losing it.
Have you had a similar experience of inner joy? You may have identified it with a connection with God like what I describe here. Or perhaps you have experienced something similar but you don’t necessarily attribute it to God. I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment!