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About Eric’s Wife

Some may say I am a "Stay at home Mom," but that is not even close. I am Eric's Wife. I have exhilarating strokes of genius, followed almost immediately by paralyzing pangs of self doubt and, for whatever reason, here is where I blog about it - warts and all. I serve a merciful God with a clumsy hand and at the end of each day I go to sleep thankful to be His servant and Eric's wife.

The Trouble with the Holy Spirit

January 22, 2012

I would like to start by thanking the makers of flannel graphs.  Due, in part, to these fine artists, and the Sunday school teachers who love them, I grew up with a pretty solid working understanding of who Jesus is and who God the Father is.   You can grow up reading the Bible and hearing the stories, but nothing was as solid to me as applying flannel graph to both.  I could see Jesus in his white robe, blue sash (sometimes it was a red sash), brown hair, and sandals.  God was always a burning bush, a cloud of smoke, a pillar of fire, or a ray of sunshine.  It is easy for my brain to hold on to something it can picture and flannel graphs gave me a most vibrant picture.

As I matured in my own Bible study, those flannel graph images began to come off the flannel board and fill out to a more three dimensional view in my mind.  This was true for the persons of God the Father and Christ the Son, but the Holy Spirit never left the board for me because His person remained a mystery.  I remember learning about how the apostles received the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended into Heaven and I recall that it was illustrated in flannel graph with a single flame of fire above the head of each man.   We learned that the Holy Spirit allowed them to speak in all kinds of different languages so that they could be understood by all.   Not because my teachers failed, but because I never sought answers, I grew up believing that the Holy Spirit was the silent partner of the the Triune God, Who only occasionally pops in to assist in tongue speaking and (very rarely) miraculous acts.

The sole piece of information that stuck with me about the Holy Spirit was that blaspheming Him is the only unforgivable sin.  Terrified that I might blaspheme on accident, I decided to just avoid the subject altogether to err on the side of caution.  He remained a mystery and I remained cautious, but oh so desperately curious.

One of my best friends in middle school came from a family that attended a charismatic church.  She invited me to come along for a special service where “the Holy Spirit will be very active,” this according to her Dad on the way there.  He cautioned me that this meant there would be “speaking in tongues” and “miracles of all kinds,” things I likely never saw in my family’s “kind of church.”  My own church experience had been quite tame and rather sedate up until then (won’t you come, while we stand, and while we sing?) and I was a little nervous and a lot excited to see for myself.  I wanted to know about the Holy Spirit and these people spoke of almost nothing else.

The guest speaker for the event was a man who had just returned from a mission trip to Africa.  There was an African man who had returned with the missionary and he came to tell us all about how he had been miraculously healed from some sickness.   I don’t recall what the man had been healed from, but I remember well what he looked like.  He was tall, but not crazy tall, just tall and broad enough to take command of the stage.  His skin was as dark as coffee and his face was beautiful in a “must stare” kind of way.  He wore a brightly colored dashiki and matching cap.

He spoke in his native language and used an interpreter.   This interpreter was a short, round, white man and he wore wire frame glasses which he had to endlessly push up his nose as his pouring sweat forced them to slide down.  His demeanor was that of a man who had an English to Nigerian handbook tossed his way ten minutes before showtime with the instructions to “see what you can get out of that.”  He stammered a good deal as he tried to string his words together and seemed flustered when the man spoke faster and more animated.  There came a point when I felt certain that the “interpreter” was really just gathering information from the man’s body language and making up the words as he went along.

If the interpreter was correct in his version, then this African fellow came all the way to Austin, TX to tell us the good news that sickness is a symptom of no faith in the Holy Spirit and that those who have faith in the Holy Spirit are never sick.  There came a point in his talk when I tuned out the interpreter and just watched the African man speak.  He wept with streams of tears and spoke like one pleading to be heard.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was pointing to something more beautiful and significant than the healing of the flesh and finances.

He was followed by the main speaker, the missionary.  This man looked unlike any missionary I had ever seen.  He wore a beautiful suit,  had a great tan, a white smile and Rick Perry hair.  It is true that I have met some good looking missionaries in my day, but this man was something else.  He spoke of how important giving was and, well, that was about it.  When you give, he told us, God unleashes the Holy Spirit’s power on you.

Stop right there.  This is how we get the Holy Spirit?  I’m intrigued, says 14 year old I.  Tell me more about this Holy Spirit.

When you have the power of the Holy Spirit (through the giving of financial gifts, he stressed), you can expect to never be sick and to never experience a financial woe.  He had a line of people come on stage and he laid hands on them to pray for healing.  These people shook and screamed and fell backwards into the arms of men who seemed to have seen such a thing on the regular.  I had only ever seen anything like that on television and I had always wondered if such things actually went on.   I was, quite literally, on the edge of my seat through this portion of the evening.  This was the part my friend’s Dad warned me about and I was bursting with nervous excitement to see what this Holy Spirit, the One rarely to be mentioned in flannel graph, could do.

The first church member to testify was a woman who said she was healed from a bad sinus infection.  She held the microphone up to her nose so we could hear her breathe freely through her nostrils.  I guess her nostrils sounded clear.  I had no reason to not believe that she did indeed feel better.  I just hoped to witness more dramatic healings in the next several testimonies.  (Like: “I came here tonight with only ONE eyeball in my head and I just now grew a whole NEW eyeball!” or something similar.)   Another testimony came from a man who said he was healed from chronic insomnia (he was awake when he said this.)  He said that he was certain that his 20 second on stage power nap had set him up for the first of many good nights’ sleep.  He was very positive that he was over his insomnia and I wouldn’t argue that he wasn’t – I just really wished I could know if he did sleep like a baby that night.  The only other one I recall was a young boy, maybe ten, who said that his arm (which was in a cast) was broken but that the pain is gone and he is sure it had been healed.  We all cheered for each one, though I grew more and more jaded as each invisible illness was “cured” before my very eyes.  Where’s the blind man who can see and the walking paralytic?

Finally, as the handsome missionary was wrapping up his time of healing people and accepting donations (which were being poured out on the stage from wicker baskets that were constantly circulating the crowd), I saw this older woman hobbling down the center aisle, making her way to the back from the front row.  She was a rather large woman and she used two very tired looking forearm crutches which were covered in medical tape around the hand grips and had the rubber stoppers on the bottoms worn to the metal.  On her feet were the orthopedic shoes and braces that I remember my grandmother wearing.  She breathed very heavily from the effort of her few steps and I felt more than a bit concerned that she might fall down when the preacher yelled out to her, “Stop!”

She stopped right beside my row of seats and made a quarter turn to look over her shoulder at him.  He asked her why she would leave when she clearly had not been healed yet.  She yelled back to the stage in a thick voice that she was unable to get on the stage because of the crowds and the stairs.  She breathed even heavier after the exertion of speaking.  For me, they could have been the only two people in the room – the shiny missionary and the woman with infirmaries I could see.

She turned to leave after a moment’s stare and he thrust his hand in her direction as though he had thrown a fast pitch softball and said again with all the authority of God, “I command you to stop and be healed!”  She froze at the first words he spoke and then slowly turned to face him.  He told her to drop the crutches and walk up and down the aisle to show us that she had been healed.  She drops the crutches and starts to hobble unsteadily towards the stage.  The audience goes wild with cheers as she reaches the stage and then comes back my way with the same unsteady gait.  She occasionally reaches for the backs of chairs along the way to steady herself.  My mouth falls open at this point, not because she is healed, but because this woman is clearly whatever the opposite of healed might be and walking far worse without the crutches.  What I was looking at, as far as I could tell, was a poor disabled woman in need of assistance who was getting no assistance, but instead was getting wildly unhelpful applause.

At this point, I am certain that the preacher wants her to disappear quietly so the ruse doesn’t become anymore strikingly obvious than it is already, but he continues on and commands this woman to RUN up and down the aisle.  She remains hobbling as before, this time even more unsteadily, if that was possible, at the same slow speed and makes a trip up and down the aisle.  He says, “See!  The Holy Spirit has healed this woman!  Can you see the ease with which she runs up and down the aisle?”  And the crowd goes wild with chanting and yelling and tambourines.   She comes back to the spot near me where she shed her crutches and starts to bend down to pick them up.  I can hear her struggle for breath and grunt as her body shifts from walking to stopping and then bending over.  The preacher again thrusts his hand in her direction and tells her that she does not need them and that she is to go home and leave those crutches in the church dumpster because she is healed.

I could feel her hesitation.  I think it is possible that she and I were the only two people in that room who knew that she no more ran that aisle than a newly learned to walk toddler could.  She allowed one of the men who had previously been catching fainters to carry off her crutches and she continued on her way out of the back doors, with two of the other men assisting her with their arms on each side of her.  The preacher dispensed with any doubting witnesses by saying that her illness came on by years of neglect of the Holy Spirit and that her complete healing would come over time as she fully repents and receives more of the Holy Spirit’s power.

“And, don’t we all want more of the Holy Spirit’s power!?” he yells to a hot room packed full of people jumping and yelling in sounds I didn’t understand or recognize as any language I’d ever heard.

My friend yelled over the noise to me, “A lot of these people are speaking in tongues.”  I yelled back, as the volume of the speaking in tongues grew louder, “Do you?”  She shrugged and joined the chorus with her own noises.  Seeing my perplexed face, she leaned in and says, “I just like to make the noises.  I’m not sure if any of this is real.”

And thus began my introduction to the Holy Spirit as an active part of Elohim, worthy of our recognition and actively working through me to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.   I have titled this little essay “The Trouble with the Holy Spirit,” not because the Holy Spirit is any trouble, but because of all the trouble I have had finding Him.

It is a journey that I am still on and I have written this not to offer answers I have found along the way so much as to encourage any one who may have, like me, ignored the pivotal role of the Holy Spirit because He seems unknowable, confusing, and all too easily mishandled.

That flashy preacher almost convinced me to part with my hard earned baby sitting money for the chance to have more of the Holy Spirit in my life.  If I have learned anything along the way that I can share with certainty, it is that the Holy Spirit is a free gift given in all fullness to all who approach God the Father through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.   The Holy Spirit changes you to make you look more like Christ and there is nothing you must do but submit to His work.  What that means and what it will look like in your life is, I believe, a highly personalized answer.

It was reading the book of Acts (of the Holy Spirit) this past summer that renewed this curiosity in me to know more about the Holy Spirit.  Reading Acts forced me to fully examine the full scope of teachings I have heard and how many of them had quieted my desire to want to know more.  If you want a good recommendation for getting to know the not-so-quiet-as-I-thought member of Elohim, I would strongly suggest you read Acts.

Acts 1

To the Ends of the World

… As they met and ate meals together, He told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from Me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”

Click here to continue.

 

2 responses to “The Trouble with the Holy Spirit”

  1. Linda Benskin says:

    Excellent post, Amy. I hope many will read it. I believe the Holy Spirit has given me “words” when I did not know how to respond in difficult situations, and that the Holy Spirit nudges Christians towards good decisions, like your decision to go to Israel. May you feel His presence in your life today.

  2. Eric's Wife says:

    It was after many years of recognizing those nudges in hindsight, that I recently felt compelled to want to be more aware of the Spirit’s movement in the moment. I have gained much from asking questions of those around me, but never as much as when I just sit with the Word. It has been such a delight that I could not keep it to myself.
    Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. May you also feel His presence in your life today.