WHO HOLY SPIRIT IS TO ME
Some years ago, a treasured friend was at something of a cross-road regarding the matter of her experiences with the Holy Spirit. Knowing that her considerable intelligence did not need the supply of facts she could find for herself, I wrote the story of my own pilgrimage with the Holy Spirit for her.
My childhood was spent in the predictable sub-culture of Assembly of God, Brisbane.
We rode trams, ate cream buns at Sunday School picnics and ‘did’ items at those annual Sunday School anniversaries where an unspoken rule seemed to be that we all got new frocks.
It felt to me, in those uncomplicated days, that there were 4 very important milestones for every believer:
1. Give one’s life to Jesus
2. Get baptised in water
3. Speak in tongues
4. Go ‘out the front’ after missionaries spoke, pledging one’s life to be a missionary in Africa or India.
Padding out the milestones was a small-ish list of expected behaviours:
1. Go to Sunday School
2. Go to youth
4. Never wear trousers
5. Never smoke
6. Never drink (somehow we all just knew that ‘drink’ didn’t include cordial)
7. Never wear make up (this one magically loosened up - “If the barn needs painting, paint it.” “Ho, ho, ho”.Then we got - “When the fire falls, the paint is the first thing to burn off.” “Ho, ho, ho”. Someone should have smashed ho, ho’s faces in.)
8. Never dance
9. Only make friends with unbelievers so that you can win them for Jesus. I certainly never asked questions about all that. I thought stuff, but I never asked questions. The fact that the witnessing leg of the race included door-to-door evangelism kind of sucked and I hated the fact that I had to become someone else in order to cope with open air meetings.
But, none-the-less, that was what my childhood Pentecostal Christianity looked like.
For me, the faith of my parents looked the same whether they were in church or in our little wooden manse in Windsor. I was never burdened by the need to reconcile two different people in order to find out who our father was. Same with our mother. A gift beyond words.
This picture suggests a safety that too many never know. Every little girl and boy, in or out of a faith setting, deserves protection.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
As an AOG pastor’s child, I was a little slow to start…didn’t give my heart to Jesus until 7 years of age. That was bad enough, but the real challenge came when my friends, in rapid succession, began to speak in tongues. “Glory, I love you Jesus, Hallelujah”…and they were off. I was left with a sense of shame that this new level of spirituality didn’t come quickly and with a sense of annoyance that it didn’t come easily.
At 13 years, I was baptised in water…a strangely warming experience and one which meant an amazing amount to me.
The annual children’s camps at Burleigh provided the backdrop for much spiritual progress. Long-suffering workers cared for a hall full of little humans, and I will be forever grateful that they did so.
By the time I was 13 years and 2 months, I was at one such camp - my last. By the following year, I would be living in New Zealand. Evening meetings were alive and pumping. There was a prayer room to the side of the hall. It was a stark box, lined with backless forms. One knelt there and one ‘got’ the Holy Spirit.
The nights passed and I was definitely the last horse in the race. It was on the Thursday that I reconciled myself to the fact that I would be returning to Brisbane the following daywith my little pile of glory hallelujah’s, but no tongues.
I played soccer with the boys before and after tea that Thursday and arrived in the meeting hot and grubby, with the outward look of someone who is going to survive regardless of the hollowness inside.
Altar call time came and, for some reason, I found myself on my knees in that little boxy room. One hour later, I began to speak in tongues. I couldn’t stop. Even at ‘lights out’ I was still pouring my heart out to God. Something had been given to me - and it was stupendous.
Forty-eight years later, having gone through times of intense connection to the heart of God and times where that connection has been dulled, there has never been a moment - day or night - when I haven’t been able to speak in tongues. The gifts given to us by God are done so without reverse. (Romans 11:29 - for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable.)
Before continuing, I will mention this. I do not believe that we Pentecostals have helped anything by using the words “initial evidence” in associating tongues with the person of the Holy Spirit. I DO believe that speaking in tongues is to be an inevitable development of the indwelling nature of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift available to every believer. However, many Holy Spirit-filled believers who do not speak in tongues are no less filled with the Holy Spirit. Evidence that one is baptised in the Holy Spirit is shown through honesty, integrity, a gracious approach to life, godliness in dealings in business and with people, prophetic insight…the list goes on.
A COUNTRY ROAD IN TARANAKI
I was 25 years of age, now a speech therapist in the New Zealand province of Taranaki. One night, I was driving along a narrow country road heading towards a meeting at which I was the speaker. It was a professional meeting, so I wasn’t speaking in tongues in order to get myself gee-d up for the show! I was speaking in tongues because I was talking to God in the language He had given me.
As I came towards the building, I became aware that I was not alone in the car. I have never lost a child-like belief that God is always with me. However, until this moment, I had never been in His tangible company. It was not a problem - I hadn’t searched for this manifestation and, to this day, I don’t concern myself about that issue.
I pulled over to the parking area slowly and dared not turn around. I sat still, barely breathing, so overwhelmed with the knowledge that my backseat passenger - God, Holy Spirit - was also not moving.
My conscious thought processes told me that I had to go inside. I was the speaker and I had to turn up. It is a funny thing to recollect that moment. I didn’t ask Him anything. I didn’t expect anything of Him. And I have never asked Him why He revealed Himself to me at a moment that had to come to an end because of an external constraint.
Eventually, I said quietly, “I have to go now.” I eased myself out of the car and walked towards the building slowly. It has only ever been an utter satisfaction that God the Holy Spirit rode in the back seat of my orange Morris Marina nearly 40 years ago.
WHO HE IS TO ME
He is God.
He is guide…that is, He directs me, using anything and every tool or opportunity imaginable. In this, He leads me to truth - although it is my choice what I do with that truth.
He is my comfort.
He is forever forming me. There is a thick wadding around my inner person which is Holy Spirit. God as Father is my security. God as Saviour is my rescuer and my authority. God as Holy Spirit makes me a real person.
I would like to enlarge on that last point. One of the things that bothers me about Christians from our background is that we have tended to end up as adults who are not soul-rich. We are so busy with our behaviours and our superlatives that we are a bit empty. While the process of forming us is to be on-going, the point is that we become substantial of both soul and spirit.
He is not nervous.
He is fully gentlemanly.
He enjoys life…and enjoys my life…and enjoys me enjoying my life.
He is creative.
He loves, in a spiritually romantic way.
He is eager and adventurous - ever wanting to introduce me to a new facet of the character of God.
He loves it when I say “yes” to things that I can’t do without Him.
He enjoys the sound of my laughter.
He well handles the sound of my sobbing.
He aches when I treat Him and His Word casually but does not whip me when I continue to do so long after I should have changed my behaviour.
He maintains my soul. He teaches me to walk in balance between the realities of my life and my wish-list of life.
He maintains my heart - the inner core of who I am - so that I won’t give up in despair.
He doesn’t get upset at me when I am honest with Father about the things that I think He should be fixing up but isn’t!
It feels to me that He is forever just behind the door of my heart, waiting to play “peek-a-boo”.
He is my wholly satisfying delight.
…being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until
the day of Christ Jesus.