Back when I was pregnant I asked people, "How do you know if you're in labor?" Every first timer asks that question. And I was told, "You'll just know." Then they looked me in the face and lied to me when they said, "But don't worry, you won't remember what it was like after it's done."
I can tell you now, almost 5 years later exactly what my labor was like. It was like someone decided to rip my internal organs out of my body through my vagina with a very very hot pair of pliers. It was, by far, the worst and most intense pain I have ever been in. *
Right, now that I have freaked out all the women who haven't had kids yet, what does that have to do with God?
Well, ask someone who is religious how they know God is out there and they tell you, "You'll just know." Stock response from 95% of the people out there. The ones who try to answer the question are probably madmen.
I'm an Irish poet, which in English means "madman" so off we go...
So what does God feel like? Well, like labor, God is different for everyone. It can be the peace of a dream, the calm of a parent holding you close. It can be cold, the knowledge that someone is standing up to a battle with you, though they do not care for you, you are there to fight, same as them. It can be the feeling of strength, knowing that whatever happens you can make it through.
It is, in short, everything that people feel anyway. Religious people hate to admit this. Everyone has something they draw strength from, and it is exactly the same. Religious experiences, the true, seeing angels kind, are so rare, and usually the result of a medical condition or insanity.
So, how do you know God is there? And how does that shape your life?
That's where that thing called faith comes in. You can say on faith, "This is probably something bigger than me. I don't know what, but I don't think it is just me" or you can say, "This is something that is coming from me, it isn't something outside of me." If you're afraid that you're not special you may go onto, "This is something special, this is something only for me, from something bigger than me." Faith can distort so many things. It can take a Simple Partial Seizure and make it into a visit from an angel (or alien, they are usually the same visions with a different central character depending on the person's experiences). There is a point where you have to say, "I don't think this is God" or "I think this is God" and go from there. The decisions you make from there can change your life. You can base your entire life on the idea that you are special and chosen by God (Hi Fundies!), you can question everything, study your ass off, and try to figure out if there is something bigger out there. You can let it all go and see where it falls and go on with your life.
God is personal, every god is. But the experiences that religious people talk about are the same, no matter what the religion. We are all the same, and sometimes, no matter who you are, you feel something special. When you are down, when you are lost, when you get found, that is something special. Call it God, call it anything it doesn't matter. What matters is it is there, always there. That's where our faith comes from, no matter what our religion. People distort it, mask it with other things, but it is still there waiting. Always waiting.
*Every labor is different, and I had a difficult one. Your labor may not be the same, hell it may not ever be hard. First timers? Don't think yours will be like mine.