Today, we’re happy to introduce a new series called Early Church Memories. We all have certain childhood memories that stand out as interesting or important to us. For those who were raised in church, many of these early recollections play a role in our spiritual development. You’ll see articles in this series pop up through November, and we hope they remind you of your earliest memories with the Lord.
To start things off, Sister Michelle Watson shares two memories that are the same but different.
I had to have been 6 years old or younger, and I was sitting in a pew near the back of the sanctuary in the old church building in Anaheim, California (before the blue remodel). The minister at the pulpit was telling a very touching story about a young child. Because the story was about a kid, my ears perked up, and I listened. The narrative was sad and beautiful, and I both pitied and admired the fictional child.
I can’t recall all the details of the story, but it plucked hard at my heartstrings (the way that all good, true stories do). My small body thrilled with emotions that I wanted to simultaneously embrace and push away. Because I couldn’t make out what I was feeling and whether I liked it or not, I did what tender tykes do. I started to cry.
After the minister concluded the story, someone in the congregation stood to exit the sanctuary, and as he passed by my pew, noticed my tear-stained face — a sight to behold, I’m sure — and stammered a bewildered, “Are you OK?”
Yes, I was.
That was the first time I remember feeling emotional in church.
Fast forward a few years, and now I’m in my early teens. This time, I’m sitting in the old Anaheim church building (after the blue remodel) nearer the pulpit. A minister was preaching, but I can’t tell you the topic. I do, however, remember that, despite my best efforts to hold myself together, I began to cry.
These weren’t the sympathetic tears of a youngster making a meaningful connection to a character in a story (although that is a lovely thing). This was something totally different and even lovelier. What I was feeling manifested itself in the form of emotion (my red face, my tears) but it didn’t come from an emotional place. It came from the well of my soul, as if something outside of myself had drawn up water from down deep.
I remember hoping against hope that nobody would notice my blubbering — everyone around me seemed calm; nobody else had their waterworks on — but the people of God are too keen for that. A sister who was sitting waaaaaay on the opposite side of the sanctuary actually got up, walked over to me, put her arms around me, and said, “You’re feeling the Spirit of God.”
Part of me was so embarrassed that I’d drawn so much attention to myself that I wanted to disappear with a pop and a poof just like a fairy. Another part of me was grateful for the presence of another human being at this important moment — to interpret it and name it.
This was the first time I’d been really and truly touched by the Spirit of God in church.
There are still times, of course, when I get emotional like I did when I was 6, but there are other times when the hand of God’s Spirit clasps the hand of my own spirit, and the joining of the two produces the appearance of emotion, but it’s oh, so much more.
When do you remember first feeling the Spirit of God?
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.