I guess everyone's relationship with God is unique. Certainly, one could make the argument that every relationship, in general, is unique. There is a lot of truth to this. We seem to not always feel the closeness of the Holy Spirit because humans value that which we can physically see and touch. Nevertheless, God's grace, the nearness of God, represented through the triune God, is "tangible," for Christians if we choose to acknowledge those experiences in which God seeks to bolster the relationship he has with us.
For me, I've taken familiar steps that many Christians do. I was baptized as an infant in the Deerpark Reformed Church in Port Jervis, New York, one of the oldest-congregations in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). I went to Sunday School, but only because my parents forced me to go. When it became time, I took confirmation classes with my Pastor over the course of an entire school year. Less than a month before I was to make my public confession of faith, my sister passed away unexpectedly in an automobile accident. Though I think about that day, and the days which followed frequently, I know it was God, through the Holy Spirit who reached out to me, to comfort me, but most importantly to help guide me in seeing his hand in my life and the power of his covenant for eternity -- for those who accept him as Lord and Savior.
It was less than a month later that I stood in front of a congregation full of people, many of whom had witnessed my baptism some 13 years earlier, and confessed what I believe: that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. Since that time, that relationship with God has only grown deeper and stronger. Life has been far from easy though. Several family members have passed away, some at relatively younger ages like my sister; each time I went to God for comfort, to seek his grace, in helping me to understand and to grieve. But, as I put words to paper, I know that I am blessed, in spite of the challenges, not only for having more than many do, but in feeling the hand of God through each and every challenge of life.
Given that I felt close to God, and did not question his existence, it was a surprise to me that I would be called upon by God to serve him and his church, beyond attendance on Sunday mornings. For some background, each of the Churches in the Reformed Church in America has a governing council known as a consistory. The consistory is made up of ordained and installed Deacons and Elders (as well as a Minister of Word and Sacrament). Deacons help oversee the maintenance of the buildings and grounds as well as participating in a ministry of outreach to the community. Elders assist the minister in tending to the spiritual needs of congregants, including visiting those who may fall ill, or in leading the congregation in worship in the absence of the minister.
It was November 2013 when I received a phone call from an Elder in my Church, asking if I would serve as an Elder. It was then that I felt God's call to serve in this capacity. It was not something I could say no to, because the Elder who called me, was simply giving voice to God's request. This was planned by God, he knew he would call me at this age, to serve as an Elder in his church. It was a couple months later, February 2014, that I would be formally ordained and installed as an Elder in his church. I was unprepared for the feeling which I was about to feel, in gleaning yet another affirmation of God's eternal covenant. The same Pastor whom I took confirmation classes with some 10 years earlier, called me forth to kneel on a prayer bench, in the presence of all who assembled, and in the presence of God. She also called forth all ordained elders and deacons whether they were currently serving on consistory, or had in the past, to lay hands on my shoulder or the shoulder of the person in front of them, forming a chain of God's love, unbreakable and unwavering, just like his love for each and every single one of his creations. In those moments when that chain had formed, and the hands touched my shoulder, I felt a weight, a weight of concerns of those whom I was pledging to help guide spiritually. As I bore that weight in the fleeting moments in which I kneeled on that prayer bench, I was overcome with an emotion that I could not stop. God had affirmed, yet again, for me, his power, his presence, and his grace.
Truly, I'm blessed to know and feel that which not all do. I have a strong relationship with God. I know fellow Christians struggle with doubt, with difficulties; but God's call to us is to open ourselves to hear him, and to build that relationship. When I knelt on that bench, I was completely open to God's call to Eldership because I had complete faith in his plan for my life. In spite of that, God still wished to reveal to me more about my faith than I knew before, by allowing me to feel that weight of concern, if even for a short-time. This was my call to be an Elder in God's Church.