Posted by: John Adams | September 6, 2007

Tony and the Duck Lady

Reading Tony Campolo’s Letters to a Young Evangelical this evening, I was struck by the description of his experience with “centering prayer.” Every morning, he wakes up and repeats the name of Jesus over and over until his mind is clear of all that would distract him from that focal thought. He continues this for about half an hour. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes, he says, he is enveloped by the sense of God’s spirit in and about him. He can feel the Spirit “vibrating” within him, and he says it empowers him for the rest of the day.

In the book, Campolo shares the story of walking onto the college campus in Philadelphia where he is a professor, fresh out of one of these early-morning prayer experiences. A well-known schizophrenic lady referred to by locals as the “Duck Lady” due to her incessant quacking walked up behind him to where he was standing at the crosswalk. Looking directly into her eyes, Campolo says he got the feeling he was peering into her soul. She became peaceful looking back into his eyes, stopping her quacking (something she never did normally) for a few moments at the street light. The light changed and the crowd began to move, and soon Campolo had lost Duck Lady in the shuffle. From further ahead, he heard her quacking resume as he veered toward his office.

I was deeply moved by Campolo’s story, since I have sometimes felt God’s Spirit in a similar way. One of the benefits of having been raised by parents and in a church that embraced charismatic doctrine was that these experiences were encouraged and sought after. Years after the fact, memories of worship services I experienced as a child can still arouse intense longing within me. I believe that these experiences offer us glimpses of the joy we will experience in heaven.

What spiritual experiences have you had? How would you describe them? What role have they played in shaping who you have become?

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