Over the last few days, I've been steadily and increasingly drawn to a significant, inevitable and sobering personal conclusion as I contemplate the lessons that I learned during Holy Week and Easter:
I've been keeping the Holy Spirit at a 'safe' distance, afraid of Him, because I'd been fooled by the lies of those who have misrepresented Him and abused His name. I've been hurt, and I've been hiding from the pain for the last four years.
This is a troubling realization to be arriving at as I try to put this into words. I have a nagging feeling that this is going to be like facing the painful memories of my childhood bullying and abuse that blindsided me more than a year and a half ago. I first began processing those memories in the post "Infliction: Childhood Wounds", as God began unraveling the emotional bandages that I had wrapped my heart in, and dismantling the armor that I had erected to protect myself. I wrote about that in "Adoration: Childhood Heroes" and "Conviction: I'm not Iron Man." I felt scared as I started to work through those memories then; I'm starting to feel scared again now.
It is an unnerving experience to be taken by God into the hidden and hurting places of my heart, where memories have been suppressed and locked away, wounds bandaged over, barriers erected, defenses at the ready. It is scary to face the truth about our hurt, abuse, fear, and the lies that we have believed about myself or others. However, it is more painful to realize that I have been scared of God as a result of spiritual wounds at the hands of false religion and teaching, and believed a lie about Him. That is the sensation I'm beginning to feel now as I think about the Holy Spirit in light of my experiences of last week, and I'm afraid. I'm afraid because I know it's going to hurt to think through those memories, but I have to if I want to find the truth.
I first tried to describe my spiritual and intellectual confusion that took place during my teenage years, when my family shifted into the Pentecostal/Charismatic community and congregations in my post "In Search of 'Holy Ground'." It was there that I first heard all sorts of people delivering extraordinary and conflicting claims regarding the Holy Spirit and His power in the life of the believer. Some seemed biblical. But others taught that He 'zapped' people with His power, causing them to shake, shout, clap, fall over, laugh, roll around, jump, and other strange behavior. Yet others taught that His whole purpose was to deliver anything that was asked of Him on demand, like the 'delivery boy' of the Trinity. According to them, He could be commanded at will with 'name it and claim it' language, with the intention of delivering health, wealth, big houses, cars, success, prosperity, personal aircraft, and anything else that we asked for to make us happy. All of them tried to use Scripture to prove their claims. All of them seemed attractive and legitimate.
Young, gullible and naive as a new Christian, I fell for all of it.
The end result of believing lies built upon swiss-cheese theology was that I formed a completely wrong picture of God, His Word and especially the Holy Spirit in my mind. This influenced who I thought I was, who I thought He was, how I approached Him, and how I looked at life. In the end, it took two devastating personal crisises that shook the foundations of my world and caused it all to come crashing down to wake me out of my stupidity and "smell the burning coffee." When the shock wore off, I realized to my horror that I had been well and truly fooled. I had been taken for a ride, spiritually duped, fed and believed a delusion, a blasphemy about the person of the Holy Spirit and left a fool at the end of it all. I felt devastated, like I had woken from a bad dream; I had been used, violated, pillaged, an idiot who believed anything and everything that was told to him and robbed of innocence in the process.
Four years ago, disillusioned and hurting but desperately wanting to live the real and authentic Christian faith, I went in search of a church that could help me lay a solid foundation in my faith and teach me the "truth." God in His mercy led me to the theologically conservative yet somewhat unconventionally Mennonite church that I attend, where I have had to unlearn much of what I thought I knew. Although I have learned much in the process, especially the precious truth about how to carefully read and interpret God's Word, I am beginning to realize that I have unintentionally kept the Holy Spirit at a safe distance. Although I pray to my Heavenly Father and think a lot about Christ, His Son, I have been afraid of speaking too personally to the Holy Spirit, asking for His help or expecting His 'power', because I've been afraid of once again opening the door to all the false teaching that I fell for before, falling into the trap and committing blasphemy in the process.
It hurts to realize this. I have to face the fear and lie that Satan tells me about the Holy Spirit in my heart and destroy it. I know that I know the real Holy Spirit. He is not the crazy, distorted image that I naively believed in many years ago. I have to firmly establish the truth about Him in my heart, and call on His power. I'm going to stop here for now and go to bed. This has been emotionally exhausting to work through for one evening. See you in the next post.
Good night, Holy Spirit. I love the real You.
- The Wisdom Seeker.