First of all, thanks so much to everyone who contributed their thoughts in the comments to my last post. It’s been fun to read how our different backgrounds have led us to different perspectives. I really appreciate your openness about not only your convictions, but also your fears and the places where you know there is room to learn and grow. Since you’ve shared so honestly, I’d like to do the same. In fact, I’m going to be more vulnerable than I’m comfortable with. These are stories I almost never share, but I want you to see how personally indebted I am to this amazing Holy Spirit and his crazy ways.
Jesus adopted me when I was 7 years old. I grew up in church, and I had enough oldest-kid syndrome to make me a natural rule follower already, so maybe the transformation didn’t seem that significant from the outside. But I knew it was real. Something had completely changed me, and I was electrified.
I’d like to say that I’ve lived some crazy-intense super-Christian life ever since, but that would be a lie. I was usually happy just to be seen as a good guy. When people praised me for being respectful or knowing the verses my dad made me memorize or being able to turn to Isaiah without using the table of contents, I was satisfied. If I ever accomplished / experienced anything that was clearly the grace of God, I externally credited him, but internally patted myself on the back. I thought that I was generally a better Christian than most people (though I would never admit it) and that God was proud of my good behavior. Anytime I lied, fooled around with a girl, got called out for being a jerk, looked at porn, or did pretty much anything else I was ashamed of, I would run from God and fake it until the guilt let up. I was slowly being crushed under the weight of my facade. I would do anything to preserve the good-guy illusion that was fooling (or maybe not fooling) my friends and family. I knew I was sick inside, and I knew God knew. But the only remedy I could come up with was to try harder.
And I wish that I could point to a single ah-ha moment when everything suddenly turned around and life started making more sense, but the truth is that God has given me hundreds of potentially life-altering moments. Some have affected me more than others, and I still have lots of growing to do. Here are a couple stories of how the Holy Spirit has invaded my life:
1. We Now Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Wandering Thoughts
One Sunday when I was 17 I was sitting in church with my youth group, and during the prayer at the end of the sermon I suddenly started seeing vivid pictures in my mind that seemed to fit together but didn’t make any sense (yet). I’m a visual / creative guy, so I think in pictures all the time, but this was different. It was like they were coming from somewhere else. I knew what it felt like to create imaginations, and this was different. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
So when I got home that afternoon, I told my dad (who is awesome, by the way), and he told me that it sounded like I had received a “vision,” and that I should pray for understanding. I suppose I had read about visions and dreams in the Bible before, but I hadn’t really given them any thought. I certainly never expected to have any myself. The whole idea was totally off my radar.
From that moment forward, though, they became a regular occurrence when I prayed. There have been a few that predicted things that happened later, others have shed light on things in my life, others have made sense to the people I shared them with but have never made sense to me, and a handful continue to give me hope to keep praying for things I’m still waiting to see.
The Lord didn’t turn me into some crazy Elijah-esque prophet that day, but he did solidify this for me once and for all: the Holy Spirit wanted to talk to me. To me! Even though I was full of pride and stumbling over myself left and right, he still wanted to show me his heart.
2. I Wanna Hold Your Haaaaaaaand
Fair warning: if the last story didn’t seem weird to you, this one almost certainly will.
Fast forward to 2010. I was working at my church in Abilene, TX, and we were having a week-long conference on the Holy Spirit. Because of my job, I got stuck running sound for the kids and missed most of conference.
I was pissed off.
Two nights before the conference ended, God woke me up. What exactly went down is a long, crazy story that is beyond the subject of this post, so I’ll just sum it up and say that God called me out and dealt with a bunch of crap in my life that I didn’t even know was there before.
The next day was completely different. I was at peace. And I knew that, regardless of my responsibilities, God had something good for me.
A volunteer showed up and let me catch the last speaker of the night. After he taught, the speaker asked us to hold our hands out as he prayed. Then the weirdest thing happened: my left hand opened up all the way flat on its own. It was hot and tingling. My right hand was still curled normally and relaxed but the left was wide open, and I had nothing to do with it. The speaker asked for anybody God was touching to come forward, so I went.
The next thing I knew, I was on the floor and people were walking around me. Nobody pushed me down, and to be honest, I don’t remember exactly how I got there. What I do remember is that my left hand, which was still wide open and hot and tingly, was now up in the air while the rest of me was on the floor, as if somebody was holding my hand. This went on for what felt like an hour, though I have no idea how long it really was.
To this day, I don’t know all of what happened to me that night or why it had to be so weird. I’ll be honest, I don’t even like to tell the story because it seems so bizarre. But I can tell you this: the Holy Spirit was doing surgery on my heart, and three changes became evident immediately and have had long lasting results:
- My anger was gone. I had no idea how much anger was in me until God took it away. For the past year I had been acting like a jerk because of bitterness. I spent the next couple of weeks apologizing to people and learning what love and joy felt like again. It was awesome!
- Lust was no longer unbeatable. Prior to that experience, my thought-life had been characterized by struggle and failure. In one 24-hour period, all of that changed. Purity suddenly had substance. I certainly haven’t been perfect since that night—some seasons have been a little harder than others—but victory immediately became the rule rather than the exception. I can honestly say that I rarely entertain a lustful thought anymore, and when I do, the way of escape is clear and easy. Even temptations to lust are rare, and I think it’s because the demons that bullied me for so long are tired of getting their butts kicked. Please don’t hear me bragging. I didn’t accomplish anything, the Holy Spirit did. It was a miracle I didn’t deserve, and I am so grateful!
- I gained a love for the Bible and theology. I knew a lot about the Bible from being around church all my life, but I didn’t enjoy reading it until that night. Now I couldn’t get enough. Passages and doctrines that had always confused and frustrated me were now an opportunity to dig into God’s heart and find truth. I no longer felt inexplicably sleepy the second I laid eyes on the page, and staying focused was easy because I was having fun. It was and still is exciting!
There’s a lot more I could share, but this post is long enough. I hope that you see how my heart has been changed by the Holy Spirit and why I feel compelled to write this blog. Next time, I hope to get in to more of what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit.
In the mean time, I want to hear more of your thoughts and questions. Are you skeptical? Does reading this bring up concerns or fears? Does it excite you? Do you have a weirder story than mine? Tell me about it in the comments!