Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Something as Real as the Wind

I’ve talked about this before, but some years ago, on a mission trip to Eastern Europe, I experienced something I thought I had never previously encountered. Sitting in a small church in Erfurt, formerly a communist party social hall (delicious irony, that), and talking with a young pastor while we were being videotaped, I was overcome by what I can only describe as a presence.

So were the pastor and the cameraman. For no discernible reason, the three of us began to weep, and simultaneously.

It lasted but a few minutes. We looked at one another, and knew something had happened. I don’t think any of us could ever describe it exactly; I remember feeling slightly dazed. And I remember thinking everything has changed.

It seems almost too easy to say it was the Holy Spirit. No tongues of fire appeared upon our heads; no odd languages escaped our mouths. Just the weeping, a sadness, a kind of gentle desolation.

I had never experienced anything like it before, inside or outside of church. In American culture, people will look at you a little strangely when you describe an experience like that.

Whatever it was, it was real.

I didn’t see anything; but something happened, something as real as the wind.

I think hesitate to name what I think it was because I have no corresponding experience to validate it.

In Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan says “there is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today.” We pray to the Father; we have a “personal experience” with Jesus. But the Spirit is banished to a closet somewhere in the basement.

Right from the start, Chan is asking some tough questions. Without the Holy Spirit, does the church live any differently than any other group of people? Have we indeed banished the Spirit to the basement? Do we really even understand what the Holy Spirit is?

One of Chan’s statements is haunting. “The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished,” he writes, “having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world.” I ask myself if that’s true. Are we indeed more concerned about weekly attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit?
It promises to be a wild ride of a book.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, a group of us have begun reading Chan’s Forgotten God. To see more posts on the book’s introduction, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact. And consider joining us – we’re covering a chapter a week (and I downloaded my copy on Kindle).

Photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Kelly Chripczuk said...

I think it's precisely that "real as the wind" aspect that makes the Holy Spirit so unappetizing for many of us. Too often we don't really want to believe in anything more than what we can see and know for certain. Unfortunately, that's a really limiting and ultimately disheartening perspective. I look forward to following the conversation, Glenn.

jasonS said...

I have definitely experienced similar things to what you describe in your story (and don't think you're crazy--unless I'm crazy too). :) I can testify that the presence of God and the reality of His Spirit is the only reason I got out of the fear and intimidation that plagued me. I would spend hours alone worshipping and seeking God and in those precious times, I would feel Him so strongly. To this day, those experiences testify to me when I want to consider God has abandoned me or maybe it's not as real as I thought. I know because I've experienced. Everyone needs that reassurance if we are going to live as Jesus intended. Great stuff, Glynn. Thank you.

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

Oh, what an amazing and indescribable experience you had, Glynn! No doubt in my mind that it was the Holy Spirit, indeed!

Unknown said...

Third time is a charm on submitting a comment. Thanks for sharing your experience and encounter. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts throughout the study. Blessings my friend.

TC Avey said...

So glad you shared your experience on that mission trip!
God wants to work in our lives. The power of the Holy Spirit is ALIVE in us (as believers in Christ). We must unlearn what many churches have taught us and allow God to open our eyes and hearts to Him working in us in new and powerful ways!

diana said...

Sounds like a great study! Thanks for sharing this experience, Glynn. I haven't had that exact thing, butI have found that tears are often an indication of the Presence of God. I wrote about it in that series I did at the first of the year. I think they are a form of charism, a true gift of the Spirit. Looking forward to this one.

Megan Willome said...

I love your phrase "a kind of gentle desolation." I experienced it while coming into the Catholic church. I believe it's why I stayed.

Thomas Mason said...

I'll admit that whenever I hear something about the Holy Spirit it is shrouded in mystery. I think others strange if they ever talk about it. But without the Holy Spirit the church wouldn't exist (I consider).