I have been so blessed in my life to encounter God in powerful ways.

God has healed me. I had lost seventy percent of my hearing, and He has restored it. I am so grateful for that blessing.

I have seen powerful moves in third-world countries where people’s destinies changed before my eyes. I have heard words in my mind prompted by the Spirit of God that have come out of other people’s mouths. The Lord once touched me at the altar in a way that I felt He physically hugged.

I mention these things not as a point of pride but as a point of grace. I cannot fathom all the blessings of God I’ve been able to see while following Him. I don’t deserve these things. There is no telling what I could boast if I got out of my own way. God designed us to glorify Him, and it’s our pride that gets in the way. I want to share a story with you of my greatest failure in this area.

When I first came to Askewville Assembly as the Associate Pastor back in 2009, Pastor Buddy Denton gave me the margin to read the Bible in ten days. It was a pleasure and stress at the same time. A pleasure because I will never be so submerged in the Word and unencumbered by all other responsibilities probably again. Stress because it was ten hours of intense reading daily.

During those days, I was overwhelmed by the presence of God. The fourth night I could sense God so strong in my room that I began to be afraid. I was not worried that He was going to hurt me somehow. I was not afraid that He would see me for all my flaws. I honestly was so fearful that if I were to lay eyes on what was standing behind me, I would not recover. I felt Him so intensely I was not sure my eyes or heart could stand such piercing light.

I trembled and begged, “Holy Spirit, please leave. I’m scared. I cannot experience you this way. I cannot handle it. I want to see this, but I am not able to tonight. Please understand.”

After a few moments, the presence left. That was twelve years ago. I have not experienced anything like that moment since. I have no greater shame than knowing I quenched the Spirit that night.

I do not feel God has demoted me from His favor in any way, but what I do know is I missed a blessing that night. I stopped a divine moment, and I will never get it back. God still loves me and still communes with me, but I doubt I will ever have that moment again.

I simply want you to know that encounters with God are not cheap and small. When the Lord speaks, we must listen! We must appreciate and participate in all He plans for us. This is not vengeance.

The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity. My relationship with God is solid and beautiful, and I hope for more incredible days in the future, but there will always be a part of me that wishes I could get that night back. When the Lord is dealing with you, let Him. Then, trust Him. Obey Him.

Pastor Emanuel Webb Hoggard is Pastor at Askewville Assembly of God. He can be reached via email at pastorwebb@hotmail.com.

Thadd White is Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.