Regular readers of But Not Yet have probably noticed that I don’t say much about the Holy Spirit. There’s a reason for that: the Holy Spirit makes me uncomfortable. Not necessarily in that convicted way, that I should be doing something different. No, she makes me uneasy because of some past experiences.
For that to make sense, you probably need some background. The first thing you need to know is I’m an old fart, 52 years old to be exact. That means that while my childhood predated the evangelical explosion of the 80’s, it was planted firmly in the midst of the Jesus and charismatic movements of the 60’s and 70’s. And, my family partook heavily of both. Of the two, I have much fonder memories of the Jesus people than the charismatics. Which only makes sense because none of the Jesus freaks were responsible for me getting my ass beat on a regular basis.
My unease about the Spirit has as much to do with abuse as it does with the fact that I’m an introvert. Yeah, big surprise, huh? Someone who spends way too much time on the computer and overthinks pretty much everything is practically the text book example of an introvert. I’ll bet you’re wondering what all this has to do with the Holy Spirit? Only someone who’s not introverted and hasn’t been in a charismatic/Pentecostal gathering could ask that question.
More background: In the early 70’s, my family became involved with a small house church that was, for all intent and purpose, a cult. While the cultish aspects of that group are a story for another time, its leader’s connection with something called the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International is not. As a youngster, I was drug along to quite a few meetings of this group. Now, I haven’t been to one in 40 years, so I have no idea what they’re like now. But, back then, things ccould get wild. Like I said, it’s been a while since I attended one of these meetings and, honestly, only one specific memory remains.
The speaker at the gathering in question was a gentleman from Indonesia named Mel Tari who’d written a book about the movement of the Spirit in his homeland. During the prayer (or worship…, or something), one fellow close to us got caught up and started jumping up and down. I don’t mean little hops; cuz was clearing the floor by a good two feet with every leap. And, the whole time, he was “speaking in tongues“. All in all, it was quite a show and I was at once attracted and repelled. Attracted because what kid wouldn’t be enthralled by such a performance? And repelled because, as an introvert, people around me drawing attention to themselves can freak me out as much as being in the spotlight myself . These days, I’ve learned to deal with situations like this, but 12 year old me didn’t have the experience to handle it.
Watching that kind of stuff was one thing, but participating? Oh, that was something else entirely. Again, I was conflicted. I dreaded being noticed by anyone, but I wanted to participate. Badly. Unfortunately, I never received the “gift” of tongues (or anything else but a swat upside the head), which in our group meant you weren’t as good a Christian as we were. Oh, no one said it that way, but that was the unspoken message. So, what did I do? I faked it. After a while I began to wonder if I was faking it, how many others were too? I still wonder that today.
Because of these experiences (and others I’ll tell you about later), I’ve kept my distance from some things involving the Holy Spirit. And, that’s not a good thing. I’m just not sure what to do about it.