“Do you feel it?” I asked my friends at a sleepover party nearly twenty years ago.
It was almost two o’clock in the morning. The room had been completely silent for approaching fifteen minutes. Nobody present had known that while they were drifting off to sleep in the dark with only a sliver of moonlight falling through the high window, I was on my back, fingers laced behind my head, listening to their breathing as each of them slowly took on that classic, deep rhythm of slumber.
When nobody answered, I tried again.
“Do you feel it?”
“What?!” one of them asked, slightly annoyed.
“The ‘falling,’” I said. I raised up on one elbow with a serious expression, as if to suggest that my question was a perfectly reasonable one to offer at that moment.
“Oh my gosh, Donna! For crying out loud!”
At this, the room erupted in laughter. Those who had been asleep were elbowed awake and immediately told about my endearing lapse in judgment, everyone quite amused at my decision to disrupt the peacefulness for such a ridiculous inquiry.
This “falling” to which I had been referring was that all-too-familiar sensation that creeps over the human body less than a minute before it is truly surrendered to sleep. I learned through this experience that not everyone—very few in fact—is aware of the “falling.” I didn’t know that this so-called human phenomenon had a name. Science refers to this as hypnagogia: the state between wakefulness and sleep. For some sleepers, it occurs while they are completely aware of the relationship between mind and body—the hypnagogic state of consciousness in those moments just before the mind begins to dream—and they can feel and sense things that defy our typical, physical, corporeal existence. Thoughts they wouldn’t normally think and feelings they wouldn’t normally feel are quickened within them as the body and mind coast to a different, almost transcendent, cognizance—an awareness prized by the world’s most celebrated artists since the dawn of time, as it is within those precious seconds the greatest of human creativity has been reported to “unlock.”
I remember the conversation I had with my friends earlier that day, well before bedtime.
“Hey, do you guys ever feel like you’re falling right before you go to sleep?”
Wrinkled eyebrows told me I was not being understood.
“Come on, you know what I mean, right? It’s like, you know you’re falling asleep, but you’re not asleep yet, but you’re, um…it’s like you feel you’re gently drifting downward? Like you’re falling on air? Like your room and the mattress aren’t there anymore, and you’re thinking about a million things at once, but you’re still able to think about the falling sensation?”
No. They had no idea what I was talking about.
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I have since learned that I am in the minority of people who experience this often. For me, the phenomenon is frequently immediately followed by another I later learned was called the “hypnic jerk”: an involuntary muscle spasm during or after hypnagogia that shocks a person to sudden and full awareness. As is the case for me, this hypnic jerk is recurrently accompanied by a quick, plotless dream wherein I am falling from the sky and jolt awake just as, or just before, I hit the ground. I am thankful that I have a second chance. Whereas almost everyone I have asked about this has answered that they have experienced the hypnic jerk, very few have said they were completely aware of mind and body during the preceding “falling” of hypnagogia.
But this phenomenon just took on fresh meaning to me…
Several years ago now, I started to feel uncomfortable about the world around me. Every day, all day, I was aware of a sensation I couldn’t explain. It was like my spiritual skin was being prickled by the winds of change. I had written about it, I had spoken about it on episodes of SkyWatch TV, but I could not explain it. This time, however, I learned I wasn’t alone in experiencing this enigmatic phenomenon. In fact, I noticed that even though it was possibly the most indescribably ambiguous sensation, it was also one of the most powerful—and inexplicably, people around me were being affected by it.
“Do you feel it?” I heard myself asking an acquaintance this question again two years ago, never considering the resemblance of my words to those voiced decades prior at the sleepover. “It’s like something isn’t right. Something big is coming in the world. Something huge. Something that’s gonna turn the world on its head and redefine everything we know about life. The winds of change are blowing, you know?”
“Yes,” she said. “I can’t explain it either, but I feel it. I believe the Holy Spirit is telling me to get ready for it…” She paused for a moment, and then noted the obvious: “Get ready for what, though, seems to be the question of the day.”
I shared with her that I, too, believed the Holy Spirit had recently given me a string of words: “Prepare yourself to minister.”
This happened during the production and research phase of a book Tom Horn and I coauthored: Redeemed Unredeemable: When America’s Most Notorious Criminals Came Face to Face with God. The ceiling did not split open, no audible voice boomed in the room, and no great beams of light fell upon me through the clouds. But this was a calling; there is no doubt in my mind. From somewhere deep, somewhere quiet, a truth slowly dawned upon my psyche like a gentle but undeniable breeze, telling me that I needed to grow up, stop being a girl of “church,” and become a woman of God. Within that puzzling message I somehow simply became aware in my mind, in my spirit, that I needed to “prepare myself to minister.”
I tried with every ounce of strength to ignore it. When it came into my thoughts at work I found myself staring off into the distance, this calling prodding my mind and demanding my attention, and the only way to get rid of it was to physically shake my upper body and force my eyes back to my computer screen.
The gentle breeze was quickly gaining speed.
When it interrupted my conversations with others by forcing its way back into my brain and rendering anything else I had to say moot, I would blink and fill my lungs with air, apologize, and relinquish the floor so those I were talking with could speak in my mental absence.
The breeze had become a steady wind.
When it kept me awake at night and commanded me to listen when I would much prefer to be dreaming about dandelions and teddy bears, I had no choice but to get out of bed and wander about the house in frustration.
The wind was rapidly gaining energy.
When it got so bad that I couldn’t function as a person anymore without constantly being coerced into a nearly catatonic and debilitating brain fog, I finally asked God what in the otherworld was going on with me, obediently emerging from my hiding place called denial, and faced the blur.
The wind had become a tornado, and I was standing in the center of a cyclone.
The only thing I could do was submit. My prayer had always been, “Here am I, Lord, send Aaron.” Like a fearful Moses. Running to the wilderness. Knowing I was capable of use for the kingdom and willing to be obedient to the call as long as it meant I could serve in a back room where I could be ignored. I always knew that I was part of the Body of Christ, but I always assumed I was the appendix: that one body part nobody thinks about, and if it bursts or malfunctions, it can be removed with a quick surgery and the body continues to function without it. But after the wind…
The wind changed me.
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WAIT… A WOMAN PREACHING IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH… WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT THAT?!
I was later asked to write the history section of Final Fire: Is the Next Great Awakening Right around the Corner?, another inspiring work. One after another, I studied in great detail every Great Awakening and major revival known to the world, from the Protestant Reformation to the Jesus People of the American counterculture era. I learned—no, I digested—what these men and women went through when faced with opposition, how they gave everything including their lives to the cause of the Great Commission, and no person on earth with a beating heart could emerge from the immense depth of those stories without feeling intensely inspired. I read as some of them were martyred. I saw the anguish they suffered in the service of Almighty God. I believed their testimonies as they wrote of the millions whose souls would spend eternity in Christ’s presence because of the work they obediently and diligently carried out. I observed over and over again the social, political, and spiritual turmoil that needled at these Christian pioneers and drove them to act…
And I saw identical social, political, and spiritual circumstances alive in our nation today.
That was when it finally hit me. Like a lightning bolt to the brain, the truth of this odd wind provided an answer that floored me, made me weep harder than I ever had in my life, and killed any resistance I had held prior:
The Church is in a state of “falling”—that all-too-familiar sensation that has historically crept over the Body of Christ just before it truly surrenders to sleep as it did in the days leading up to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, James McGready, Dwight Moody, and the others.
Few are ever as aware of the “falling” as these leaders were, content to belong to a tired church of apathetic believers. These key activists, however, were completely conscious of the relationship between the sleepy mindset of the Church and the lackadaisical endeavors within the Body of Christ—the spiritually hypnagogic state of Body-consciousness in those moments just before the Church begins to drift into spiritual slumber—and they felt and sensed things that defied our typical, physical, corporeal existence. A willingness to serve they wouldn’t normally demonstrate and a devotion to an at-all-costs mentality they wouldn’t normally employ were quickened within them as they rose above the potential they formerly thought they had…and they welcomed a near-transcendent cognizance—an awareness that “unlocked” unstoppable revival and changed the world from that day forward.
Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit’s mere finger-snap, the globe was thrust into a hypnic jerk. The Body’s visions of the Church’s falling were instantaneously more obvious and undeniable than ever as the proverbial Body’s muscle spasm shocked them to full awareness. The Body was thankful it had a second chance.
We are now, beyond the shadow of any doubt, experiencing the spiritual hypnic jerk. God’s nation is rising…
Once I stopped weeping and wrapped my brain around the enormous revelation, I asked the Lord, “God, might you be choosing me to play a role in the next Great Awakening?”
And the answer came immediately, but it wasn’t necessarily all about me. I knew mine was not the only cyclone. I heard a still, small voice say, “Although God often chooses many voices to accomplish His work, God is all-powerful. If He so wills a Great Awakening to change the world from this day forward, then it only takes one.”
And it could be you.
So I ask you… Do you feel it?
Do your thoughts drift into visualizations of the gates of Paradise opening for droves and masses who will never feel pain or hurt or sorrow ever again in eternity? Can you close your eyes and see a luminous and dazzling Kingdom with golden streets and brilliant light forever waiting to welcome those who were once lost? Does your heart beat a little faster in your chest when you imagine yourself helping another soul make it into blissful eternity? Do you lay awake at night with your hands laced behind your head wishing you could sleep while your thoughts race with the imagery of new converts stepping into the priesthood of all believers? Have you felt the winds of change blowing you into new shapes and new places for future use in God’s Kingdom work? Are you willing to surrender to the Author of the next Great Awakening and be used in any way you can be—regardless of how uncomfortable that position makes you—in order to see the eternal fruits of your labors reflecting in the eyes of those you love and reach out to within this lifetime?
If so, prepare yourself to minister.
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