by Erin Wikle –
It was my freshman year of college and I was just completing my first theology course. Nothing we’d learned had managed to shake my faith; nothing my professor taught seemed theologically unsound. For my final course paper, I chose to write about the Holy Spirit. In about five pages, this is what I said:
“The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead. He shares in an equal partnership with God the Father and Jesus the Son. Each is undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide and protect those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ and God the Father. Without the Spirit, life would be difficult. It is the Spirit who speaks to us and tells us what to do.”
Seemed good to me! As customary, I sent my paper to my dad to proofread. While his comments were encouraging, something he said did shake me up a little. He first pointed out how mechanical my paper seemed. Did I speak truth? Absolutely. I wrote only what I had been taught. But what my father continued to say initiated a change in my limited understanding of who the Spirit really was. He said that someday, when I truly experienced the Spirit I would really have something to write about, something more than a simple repetition of what the church had taught me over the years.
This “news” piqued my curiosity. Soon the Lord began to bring different people into my life who had been broken and blessed by the Spirit in ways that were evident. I met a handful of gifted messengers who did not speak words conjured by their own devices, but spoke words ordained by the Holy Spirit himself. I witnessed the power of the Spirit on “mere” men and women who received the gift of prophesy and whose purpose was to speak the word of the Lord into broken lives. I heard others speak in languages I knew they had no former knowledge of. I could look upon certain people in the church and clearly see that they were, supernaturally, saints.
Despite what I had seen, I began to struggle, and still struggle with the reality of it all. Even growing cynical at times, I waver back and forth in what I really think of the Spirit’s manifestations. There are moments when I feel if I am not speaking in tongues or prophesying over the church, the Spirit is not within me. I hate the dual natures that battle within me. I long to know more of the Spirit—yet I remain consumed with fear because I desire nothing but authenticity from myself.
I shared my frustration with a friend. In response, she encouraged me with this: “Rest assured that your struggle is proof that you desire to be filled with a Spirit that is not dead. You know that that Spirit is alive and you want the Spirit to be alive in you. Too many people in the church don’t ‘have’ the Spirit because they don’t believe he is the same Spirit that fell on the early church centuries ago. But you do believe in that same Spirit. So press in.”
She was right.
Too long we’ve persisted in and have accepted teaching from a church that half-heartedly believes in the power and supernatural nature of the Spirit. We believe what is “safe” and “sound,” not what borders “radical” and “far-reaching.” It seems we believe in who the Spirit is, but seldom in what he can do. I often ask myself how much greater my life would be if only I would fully yield to the Spirit rather than ignore, bypass, or suppress him. How much stronger would my ministry be if I believed the Spirit was greater than the parameters I tried to contain him in? Would I be a better witness to my own congregation if they saw that it was okay, admonished even, to worship in ways that have been foreign to our church for centuries? Would life be different? Absolutely.
Maybe you struggle like me. Maybe the church has taken away a freedom that, as a believer, is rightfully yours. But rest in this, where the Spirit of the Lord is—there is freedom. All we have to do?