One of the best ways I’ve ever heard the Holy Spirit described is “The Wild Goose.” The Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit this, not to be irreverent, but because they knew something I think we’ve forgotten.
They know that the Holy Spirit is wild.
A few years ago, Leslie and I led a team of college students to work with an orphanage in India for a few weeks. At one point, the leader of the Orphanage took us to see the place where Apostle Thomas was thought to have been martyred. We thought we were going to a museum.
We were wrong.
Turns out that the orphanage we were working with was taking us to a Prayer conference at the site where Thomas was martyred. Hundreds of Christians from around Southern India had gathered, including…I kid you not…Benny Hinn’s mentor.
Everyone called him Apostle Bob (not his real name) and at one point during the prayer time, A.B. said he wanted a representative from every nation up on stage to pray for them. I didn’t like where this was headed, so I just kept my eyes on the floor and tried to pretend like I was deep in some kind of spiritual focus that shouldn’t be interrupted.
They actually picked Leslie out of the crowd to be the American representative. She joined a line of people on the stage, taking her place at the far left, and then it happened. Apostle Bob started at the right side of the stage and starting putting his hands on people’s head saying “Fire” and then they would fall back into some designated catcher’s arms.
I remember thinking, “Thank God they didn’t choose me.”
That was premature.
Because my sweet wife, didn’t want to do this alone, and so about half-way through the prayer session, she comes off the stage, down to me, cuts right past my spiritual shoe-staring, and takes me back to stand in line with her.
I got in place just in time to be popped in the head by the man, and fell back, more pushed and pulled, than slain.
I’m laying on the floor in a Church in India thinking about all the college students I had brought here, and what they must have been thinking. But I was sure I knew what it was, I had grown up thinking it.
A few years before, I had been to Sri Lanka with a team of people from the Hills Church to do Tsunami disaster relief. We served the area of the world that had been hit the hardest, and to this day some of our Church members are still there.
But what I remember about that trip was the blind woman who was healed. One of our shepherds had gone with us, and during the Sunday morning church assembly, a woman had come up asking for prayers, because she had been blind for years.
The Shepherd prayed, and God healed her.
That same day, I prayed for a 4 year old boy with a heart murmur. The next year when we went back we learned that the blind woman still could see, and the young boy had died.
Recently I wrote about a major shift that I’ve had in how I think we are called to relate to God and His Spirit. I have learned that most Western Christians try to talk about the way the Spirit works in two different categories. Either Magic…or Deism.
But neither of those does justice to the Bible or to most of our own experiences. The Spirit of God is not something that we can control or commodify. Listen to how often we talk about the Spirit and say things like “I want more.”
I get the sentiment behind that, but on one level it can be the greedy result of having gotten much of what we want for our entire life. God is an experiential God, but that might not mean what you think, and it certainly doesn’t mean that God works on our terms.
But then the other danger is the one that our fellowship has been far more guilty of than we know. We came by it honest. The Restoration Movement is a product of good people trying to make sense of God and Church in the boom of Western Enlightenment. A movement that was built on the understanding that God made the world, wound it up like a watch, and then stepped away.
So we ask questions like “Can God do the supernatural?” never realizing that those are not words we are given by Scripture or the earlier Christians. Or we try to “Name the blessing and claim the healing” somehow missing the humility that seems to characterize the prayers of the early church.
And all along we miss the one thing the Spirit is trying to do in us.
Help us to let go of our deep desire for controlling outcomes and even our own life.
I believe that preparation is a friend, not enemy, to the Holy Spirit, but there is a world of difference between preparation and manipulation.
I believe that if Jesus and the Disciples needed the Spirit than I most certainly do and I still believe on many levels what the Churches of Christ taught me to believe, that the book of Acts is not a book of exceptions, but examples.
But I also believe that a life filled with the spirit is primarily known by fruits of the Spirit. And one of the more disturbing parts of this conversation between Christians is that it is most often marked by condescension. Certain groups define the other as primitive or weird, and themselves as enlightened or orthodox.
Frankly, I’ve seen more ugliness in Christians when we are talking about the Holy Spirit than almost any other topic.
One group thinks they’ve got God figured out, and another thinks they’re crazy.
Which is why my favorite description of the Holy Spirit is a Wild Goose. Because if you think you can put God’s Spirit in a well-defined box, it’s probably not God you’re chasing.