Into the tempest…

In the Bible, there are times when a “strong wind” from God starts to blow and sweeps people up into the Divine Purpose.  Jesus said that “The Pneuma (wind, breath, spirit) blows where it pleases, you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Pneuma” (John 3).  Sounds fun.  Getting caught up in the “wind” of God.

…That is, of course, until it starts happening.  And all of a sudden you’re getting tossed here and there, unsure whither or where you’re going to land.  Will you land?  You don’t know.  A kite on the hurricane of God’s sometimes violent breath.

Much of my religious upbringing (I’m a charismatic) taught me to expect that such hurricanes of the Spirit would sweep me up now and again.  Actually, “the move of God” was something we longed for and celebrated.  Yet what no one taught me was that sometimes, getting caught up in the hurricane is scary, even potentially lethal.  As I’ve grown with God, I’ve discovered that more often than not, getting swept up in a “move of God” is perilous, not-altogether-straightforward, and fraught with risk and uncertainty.  Yet I’m sure of this: I’d rather be there than sitting comfortably in control of my universe.  After all, kites are only in control when they’re not flying.  But the point of kites is not control.  It is flying.  And flying is risky business.

One of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a pastor and theologian who led a substantial resistance movement to Hitler during the rise of Nazi Germany.  Bonhoeffer knew what it meant to get “swept up to big purposes”, and also understood that so getting swept often would make one’s life substantially more complicated than it would have been otherwise.  While sitting in a prison for his actions, awaiting a most certain death, he composed these lines.  I share them with you as hope and encouragement to you (since this is the week leading up to Pentecost) to lose yourself, whenever you can, to the risky wind of God’s Spirit:

“Do and dare what is right, not swayed by the whim of the moment.

Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be.

Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom.

Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living.

God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you.

Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit amid great rejoicing.” – Bonhoeffer, Stations on the Way to Freedom

This Pentecost, I’m remembering that getting caught up in the strong wind of God is rarely straightforward.  Sometimes, it’s a tempest.  But I’d rather live wildly on the wind than safely on the ground.

May you have courage to get swept away this Pentecost.


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