without warning.. from the sky, I had a very powerful..encounter“You’re God aren’t you?”Pastor Giles’ submitted story

Giles - running - 1My name is Giles Higgins, married to Sarah and we have two children, Beth and Jonny who are studying at their respective universities.

I had a fairly normal childhood, mostly living in Surrey.  I made it through my early adulthood with some ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ – before moving to Wolverhampton in October 1988 to study at what was then Wolverhampton Polytechnic.  I was very determined to succeed at a high level in my studies, especially because of the indifferent start to my adult life.  Also I desired to have a high quality of life in making new relationships and to improve my athletic ability (I was a keen middle and long distance runner).  In a sense I was trying to ‘find’ myself – in being successful in what I did (studies and athletics) and trying to be a decent person.

So what happened?

At the end of my 2nd year in Wolverhampton (1990), I spent the summer in Seattle, USA.  I obtained a bit of paid work to fund my activities and just enjoyed being there.  It seemed that I was doing ok in life – with 2 successful years at Wolverhampton and having what seemed a wonderful summer in a wonderful place.  My exams had gone well though I didn’t as yet know the results.  I had also run my personal best time that summer in a 5 kilometer road race.  However there was a part of me that was empty, which was disconcerting – as I had, since leaving home in 1988, been on a mission to ‘find’ myself.

A few weeks into my stay in Seattle, I received the results of my 2nd year exams.  I had set a high target for myself for the 9 subjects – to achieve 5 ‘1sts’ and 4 ‘2-1’s’ – and so I was eager to find out my results.  I found out that I had achieved no less than 8 ‘1sts’ and 1 ‘2-1’ – unbelievably better than my wildest dreams!  BUT – this amazing achievement didn’t give me the sense of satisfaction that I had hoped.  For some reason the feeling of emptiness remained.  This was crazy because I should have been ecstatically happy!!  A friend of mine took me out for a meal to celebrate, but for some reason, I just couldn’t find the happiness that I had hoped to have through being successful in my studies.

Earlier in my time in Seattle, I had already agreed I would help out on a camp to help children with Muscular Dystrophy.  This camp took place about a week after finding out my exam results.  My role was being the constant helper for a lad with Muscular Dystrophy who was unable to do anything for himself.  For the whole week, I was totally focused on helping this lad to live at and enjoy the camp.  It was really good to focus on someone else’s needs rather than on my own perplexing thoughts about life.  At this camp, I met some Christians whose lives impressed me.  My cabin leader was a particularly impressive person.  I was 25 years of age and I was determined to become a really good person, including being successful in what I did.  My cabin leader, however, was only 21 and he had something about him which I knew I didn’t have.  He had a peace and joy which drew me at heart level.  He wasn’t a particularly high flier in his work, but he had a contentment and peace which I couldn’t ignore.  At one point in the week, I had a few minutes with him alone and with tears in my eyes asked him what he had – that I just did not have.  He thanked me for complimenting him so highly but said that it wasn’t him himself, but it was God in his life.  I did not understand what he meant by that as anything to do with God/Religion etc was a mystery to me.  Despite him bringing God into the mix, I was still massively impressed by him and wanted to remain in contact with him.  At the conclusion of the camp, on a piece of paper with his address, he wrote:

Proverbs 3 verses 5 & 6 – and said in his wonderful American accent,

“Read that, it’ll do ya good!”

The day after the camp ended, late on a Sunday evening, I looked up the Bible verse that my friend had written out.  I read,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding …” 

The phrase, “lean not on your own understanding” hit me very hard.  My life had been all about me planning what I did, how I did it and how well I did it … it was all about ME plotting my own success.  Here I was being told to not look inwards for the answers in life, but to look upwards to whoever God is.  I didn’t know God in that moment, but to be told to look outside of myself, rather than inwards hit me very hard.

The following morning, I went for an early morning run.  About one mile into the run as I ran through a near empty car park, suddenly – without warning, coming from the sky, I had a very powerful, loving spiritual encounter.  I knew instinctively a Person had come to me, not a “force”.  My immediate response was “You’re God aren’t you?”  I just knew it was God!  God just came to me and without any prior request on my part.  In fact if someone would’ve stopped me a few seconds before God came to me and told me what was about to happen, I would’ve thought they were crazy.  I had no previous ‘religious’ instruction other than reading one Bible verse the night before.  The sense of the power and love of God literally flooded my heart and soul – and I broke into a sprint!

Since that day …

The sense of God being with and within my heart and soul totally changed me.  The next few days and weeks were tumultuous in living in this new reality of God.  I attended the church at which my friend from the camp was a member.  He and others had the sense to get me started in reading the Bible to start to ‘earth’ my huge experience of God with a proper understanding.

The amazing summer in the USA came to an end and life resumed in Wolverhampton – but with a fundamentally different outlook than before.  I knew from the day God came to me that having Him in my life is all important.  Working out the implications of it all meant developing an understanding of who He is and what He does.  I keenly read the Bible and committed myself to a local church.  Following the initial meeting with God, it became clear to me I needed to understand that He made it possible to come to me by sending Jesus Christ to live on the earth.  I came to appreciate that Jesus took the punishment for all my sins by suffering and dying for me on a cruel cross.  He was resurrected and the Holy Spirit was (and is being) poured out on me very generously.

Has all this made a difference?

Very much so!  Having committed myself to Jesus and Him being central in my life, means I can talk with Him about anything, both major and minor things.  I’ve found He is totally trustworthy in all aspects of life – my marriage and family life, my work, financial concerns, when life gets tough … in fact all things in life! P1010328 I’ve found also that trusting and following Jesus has led us as a family to have a wonderful purpose in serving Him and His purposes.  I have found particularly that ‘church’ is so wonderfully different to what I thought it was in my pre-Christian days.  Church for me is exciting and uplifting as all of us together are encountering God in very real ways.  Also we’re seeing Him work powerfully in people’s lives.

God showed Himself to me almost 28 years ago as very real, very powerful and very loving.  I can honestly say that He has continued to be so today.  I know Jesus is alive – yes because it says so in the Bible, but also because I experience Him every day.  It is my hope and prayer that God will become a reality to you as He did to me.

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