This weekend my wife and I went out to dinner with a couple from our church. The wife noted that our last two worship gatherings felt more like a Friends Meeting than a Baptist worship service. Some in her family were Friends (Quakers) and she had been to several meetings. She noted this because I’ve started talking about the Spiritual Disciplines in worship. When we discussed meditation we actually took time in worship to meditate on scripture, re-write it in our own words, look for application and then pray over it. Twenty minutes of silence occurred while all that happened. In our worship gathering this weekend, we talked about prayer and so we actually took time as a corporate body to pray, and we ended with a big prayer meeting.
So I in this conversation I got to learn from her all about a Friends Meeting. It was quite fascinating and unique.
I then told her that I had in the past year or two considered spending some time either at a spiritual retreat center run by a Friends group or a monastery. There was a puzzled look on her face. I noted that these both were places known for Christian mysticism. Early Christianity was filled with mystics. Some even think Paul was a Jewish mystic who became a Christ-follower and maintained the mystical elements of his faith. In addition to the practices of solitude and silence that I need, I am interested in exploring the mystical side of the Christian faith.
This may be unsettling to some. Don’t let it be.
In my spiritual journey I have experienced more of the mystical side – or at least what I would call mystical. I was at a camp in college talking with a young lady. In the midst of our conversation, very clearly the Spirit spoke to me and said, ¢â‚¬Å“She’s been raped¢â‚¬. Five minutes later, she told me of how she had been raped a couple of years earlier. In another conversation with a friend during college, the Spirit spoke and said, ¢â‚¬Å“She’s been sexually active¢â‚¬. Two minutes later she described that part of her past and because I did not flinch or react to her -because I knew it was coming – she was finally able to see the unconditional love of God and God as Father. I was in college, in my apartment on a Sunday afternoon after a great worship gathering, and the Spirit spoke very clearly. ¢â‚¬Å“What do you want?¢â‚¬ was the question and I responded with three requests. We (the Trinity and I) spent the entire year working on these three things, which prepared me for the future.
Then years of silence.
Recently, however, I have had a greater sense of mysterious God. Last year, I had a dream during a particularly hard time in my life and at the end of the dream I heard a beautiful voice singing, ¢â‚¬Å“I will stand by you¢â‚¬. I immediately awoke realizing that God had just spoken to my through that dream, and today I live in the confidence that God’s provision will stand. And most recently, I had a vision of a great fire that started in Delaware and burned north, to the I-95 corridor and went north to Portland, ME and south to Washington DC. It was the fire of revival and I have been praying for another Great Awakening for this country. Interestingly enough, one of my tribesman (denominational guy) had a similar vision five nights in a row.
Also, I notice that when I spend time meditating on the scriptures, I find myself longing to hear from the Spirit. The more I am in the word, the more I release myself to the Spirit whom I expect to teach me and instruct me and intercede for me. I have all of this learning, but I long for the Spirit. And I am willing to let the Spirit take me on a journey in a direction I do not know where I will end up.
This may be unsettling to my friends. Don’t let it be. I’m not talking full-blown hyper-charismatic behavior here. No laughing revivals revivals or dancing on stage with Paula or Ken or Jesse or Benny. I am talking about embracing the triune God, in all His persons, and that is a scary, mysterious journey that people struggle with.
I noted to a friend last week that my denomination has replaced the Holy Spirit with the Bible in the Trinity. In our attempt to achieve orthodoxy (and might I add, by very unbiblical methods at times) I believe we have jettisoned the Spirit from the Trinity and replaced Him with the Bible. Now I know that no one would say that out loud. But from a very practical sense, that is what has happened.
As we talked about this over lunch, I asked my friend (who’s much more theologically astute than I), ¢â‚¬Å“Are we willing to trust the Spirit alone?¢â‚¬ He noted he struggles with that. But he also encouraged me to explore that and write on it. The idea: does our bibliology trump our pneumatology?
We struggle to embrace mystery in our lives because it takes us out of control. Someone else must ¢â‚¬Å“taking the wheel¢â‚¬. (Thanks Carrie Underwood!) It means we truly allow God to lead us. He truly becomes in charge.
This is the journey of a pneumanaut – one who rides the Spirit.
I hope, over the next couple of weeks or two, to actually put together a few posts about how our bibliology has trumped our pneumatology. In the meantime, I ‘m off into the mystery. It’s never dull and there is always something new to see. I’m tired of being shackled. I want to embrace the mystery.