Open to the Spirit

Life in the Postmodern Shift

July 3, 2024 | Opinion | Volume 28 Issue 9
Troy Watson |
Photo: Josh Eckstein/Unsplash

Just over a year ago, I invited readers of Canadian Mennonite to share their Holy Spirit experiences with me (April 6, 2023). I was pleasantly surprised by the response. I was moved and encouraged by the messages I received. Thank you to all who responded.


These messages were shared in confidence, and confidentiality is sacred. Although I wish everyone could hear some of the stories people shared with me, they are not my stories to tell. Instead, I want to list the types of “God experiences” many of my Mennonite sojourners have shared with me over the years:

  • Divine healing, including mental, emotional and physical healing.
  • Being empowered with a super-natural capacity to forgive people who had wronged or abused them.
  • Receiving timely guidance and insight when facing difficult decisions.
  • Waking up with words, an image or a Scripture passage that addressed a situation they were facing, or an encouraging message to share with someone else, sometimes directly addressing a specific concern, need or prayer request of the other person.
  • Receiving signs from God or answered prayers.
  • Being empowered with mystifying patience, endurance and energy to provide care for others during trying circumstances and seasons.
  • Praying and singing in tongues.
  • God communicating through dreams, reoccurring numbers, close encounters with animals, symbols, a sudden thought, word, Bible reference or song entering their minds.
  • Seeing or sensing the presence of an angel.
  • Seeing visions.
  • Being “slain in the Spirit.”
  • Sensing God’s presence in the room, sometimes accompanied by seeing colours, hearing sounds (like a rushing wind) or feeling overwhelming peace, joy or comfort.
  • Family members seeing Jesus, an angel or a deceased family member as they approach death.
  • Some people have also shared disappointment in seeking God’s presence or baptism in the Spirit and not sensing anything, at least not in ways they expected (e.g. speaking in tongues). However, all but a few said they sensed God’s presence with them over the years in spite of this disappointment.
  • Perhaps even more interesting than the specific experiences people have shared is how these experiences and encounters changed them. Here are some of the common transformations people reported as a result of their encounters with the Spirit.
  • More joy in life, including in the trivial, mundane and difficult aspects of life.
  • More patience with others, themselves and adverse circumstances.
  • More energy and endurance to serve and help others.
  • A consistent inner peace, even in difficult and painful times.
  • A surprising source of inner strength during times of struggle and suffering.
  • A heightened sense of God’s presence with them, in others and the world around them.
  • An ongoing sense of companionship or friendship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
  • A deeper and more enriching prayer life.
  • More love for others, including enemies and difficult people.
  • A growing desire to help people in need, care for the hurting and bless those around them.
  • More compassion and grace for others, and less judgment.
  • A greater sense of connection to nature, the environment and animals.
  • More attention to creation care.
  • A settled and grounded spirit, unshaken by circumstances and events, confident in God’s faithfulness and goodness.

As I reflect on the many Spirit stories I’ve heard from CM readers and hundreds of others who have shared their spiritual experiences with me, I’m encouraged and inspired. Seeking God and being open to God’s Spirit is clearly a worthwhile way to live. We don’t always get the experiences we are looking for—in fact, we rarely do—but God does interact with us in surprising and life-changing ways.


The impact of the divine in our lives makes our faith not only experiential but practical. We are transformed by seeking God. Our lives, hearts, attitudes, desires, goals, ways of thinking and behaving are changed as a result of us being open to God’s presence.


Some of us are wired to seek mystical experiences and the gifts of the Spirit, which is good, if we can be flexible with our expectations. However, what we all need is the fruit of the Spirit. As we intentionally invite the Spirit into our lives, the fruit of the Spirit will grow and become more manifest in us. Over time we will become more loving, joyful, patient, compassionate, self-controlled, peaceful and generous. This is the Spirit at work in us.

Photo: Josh Eckstein/Unsplash

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