Right now, we are in that same period of time of “waiting” as the disciples were. The 10 days between Jesus’ ascension and the day of Pentecost when “The Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, came and baptized the disciples.” (Acts 2)
I’ve never put into written form, my personal experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nor do I recall ever sharing publicly the specifics of it – how it happened for me, or what it was like (as best as my limited human vocabulary can describe it.) But today, I felt led to. So here goes.I was in my home, the first house Steven and I ever bought, in San Antonio, Texas.
I don’t recall nor did I note the exact day it happened. It must have been in 2001 or perhaps even the early part of 2002.
I would have been about 27 years old, and it was shortly after giving my life to Christ and experiencing the rebirth. My hunger for the things of God was insatiable. It had become my practice to get up early, while it was still dark, and shuffle my way over to our guest bedroom on the opposite side of the house. There, we had a little bed setup, and I’d sit and read my Bible each morning and pray. I didn’t yet drink coffee then, and neither did smartphones exist. It was just me, my Bible, a $.50 spiral notebook, and a pen.
I read daily. No reading plan, just starting at Genesis and moving my way through. Sometimes having to read over the same passage multiple times because sleepiness would try and overtake me. But I was determined to not start my day without something. I had to feel the imprint, the touch from His word on my heart.
After reading, I would kneel down next to the bed to pray. By this time, the sun was coming up and filling the room with morning light. It was beautiful, but in a way it felt like a distraction to me. So I would take the blanket off the foot of the bed and cover my head with it, creating somewhat of a darker “prayer tent”over me. (I oftentimes still do this when I pray.)
I didn’t yet know what the baptism in the Holy Spirit was. Nor did I even know it existed. I was just responding, as best as I knew how, to this new love I had for the things of God. I was allowing Him, asking Him so desperately, to renew me, renew my thoughts, heal our marriage and well, to just help me! So that morning for me was much like all the other mornings. I knelt down to pray. Still a little sleepy, still a little groggy. I covered my head, and quietly began.
As I was praying, the best way I can describe it is that a swirl would begin to move through my mind. Like an energy force would start to pick up speed and move, or even blow through me (like a wind, but with no presence of wind as we know it). This had started happening regularly when I prayed (and to this day still happens sometimes). It would move through my mind first and then through my being. I always felt so refreshed by it. It was as though I could feel the Presence of God cleaning and refining my mind, my thoughts, my emotions, healing and energizing me.
But that particular morning, something different happened. As I continued in prayer, and “the swirl“ (which I now was the Presence of the Holy Spirit) was renewing me, it was as though a light appeared. Not on the outside of me, but within me. My eyes were still closed. My blanket/prayer shawl was still blocking out the natural light. But this light was so bright, I could hardly bear the presence of it. And it was a light that I somehow instinctively knew I could perceive only if I kept my eyes closed. So I fought to, pushing past the point of my discomfort.
The light was beautiful. Warm. Golden. Almost like fire, but not. Almost like the brightness of the sun, but not. I felt like it saturated my entire being. Though “saturated” feels like such a weak word. It flooded me, overwhelmed me, permeated every cell in my being and pulled me in. I continued to pray as I was able. Not having words to describe what I was experiencing, but saying whatever I could.
Suddenly, my language began to change.
It was as though my mouth and voice instinctively knew how to form and pronounce other words I had never heard before. It felt like a language I knew, but didn’t know I knew. I was hearing something come out of me that I was obviously saying, yet it came from such a deep place within me that my normal language seemed to fall short of this glorious way of speaking, of communicating. It was not jibber-jabber. It was not babble. It was… beautiful.
I didn’t even know this was a thing or that I could pray for it or ask for it. It just…happened. In my simple, humble pursuit of God, it just, happened. I didn’t have words or doctrine to define it. But what happened to me that day forever changed me. I felt so incredibly safe, yet overwhelmed all at the same time. I don’t even know how much time went by, but I eventually wrapped up and had to start getting ready for work. From that time on, I began experiencing the light and fire of the Presence of God more frequently, but I never made it a requirement or a goal. It was a gift, and I knew it.
I had been, as Jesus told the disciples they would have been, “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). I had received, without even really knowing it yet, “The Promise of the Father”(Acts 1:4) And at that particular time, one of the evidences of it, was that I began to speak in a language that I didn’t learn or even know how to translate. It was a heavenly language by which I could communicate with God on a much deeper level, and while my mind “comprehend it not”, my inner-man knew what was happening. It didn’t feel like something “apart from me” that was happening “to” me. It felt like a deeper level of myself was coming alive and connecting with heaven and God Himself.
Yes, the Spirit had been imparted to me already to the degree that His Presence lived and dwelt within me. This happened at my conversion, at the time I completely surrendered my life to God. I was sealed as His (Ephesians 1:13). But little did I know, there was more. I was strengthened in a different way from on high. There was a part of me that was awakened. My capacity to perceive and know God more intimately was opened and activated. And in my day-to-day, I began to operate with a new level of boldness, confidence, strength, a sense of knowing, and communion. Since then, there have been many other experiences, all very different in nature. But it always goes back to that tiny bedroom, in San Antonio, Texas when I was baptized, not just by water, but by the fire and Presence of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 NKJV
I have spent the last 19 years of my life enjoying the goodness of what God has already done for me and given me. My pursuit is Him. I don’t chase experiences, but they do come. And because I know and have experienced the truth and reality that there is more, I continue to ask Him to lead me to and through “the more”. He always knows exactly what I need and when I need it.
I chose to share this as on the calendar and rhythm of time we just so happen to be in that 10-day period when the disciples were waiting for the Gift God had promised to send. They didn’t really know what they were waiting for, or should I say, “Who” they were waiting for. But as they waited and prayed, the Promise came.
Maybe you’re in a place where you’re ready for the more. Maybe you’ve never experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or maybe you’ve never even stepped into a true relationship with God. Maybe all you’ve known is “religion” instead of the personal kind of experience I’m describing. Or maybe you’ve had encounters with God in the past, but it’s been a while since the flame burned brightly.
I pray that your inner man starts to growl with spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by the things of God.
This of course is not the only time of year for which encounters are reserved. However, it is a beautiful time to stir up our faith and allow our hope to reach a new level for whatever God chooses to gift us with. What I’ve shared in this post is not a formula. You don’t have to cover your head with a blanket when you pray, and you don’t have to experience the swirl or light I spoke about (though you might). God knows how to make Himself known to you in a very personal and intimate way.
But the one thing I would leave you with is this, He longs to give good gifts to His children. He longs for us to know Him more intimately and personally. But the desire has to come from us. And if we just bring Him our desire and our hunger, He will satisfy it.
Thanks for reading. Looking forward with you in great hope and anticipation for all that He is.
Linda G. Riddle