You Used To Move

churchYou used to move that way.

You used to show up in visions and prophetic utterances, in moments of euphoria and bliss. You used to show up as I spoke in tongues and was slain in the Spirit.

You used to move that way.

You used to move in signs and wonders. I saw the exorcisms and the healings. I felt the fervor of holy prayers and heard the words of knowledge.

Was it all just a sham? Was it just emotionalism that I mistook for power from on high? Were the things I saw and felt and experienced and did all for nothing, all amounting to nothing and emptiness?

See, in my life you used to move that way, but you don’t any more.

These days, you are silent, your words are dry and dusty to my heart, and my spirit is parched in desperate search for the Spirit to touch me. These days, you don’t seem to move at all. At least I can’t see it, feel it, or know for sure at all.

Call it doubt if you will, but I would rather blame you for being the God who hides, who deliberately removes himself from my view. I used to see you all the time, on every page of scripture and in every prayer session. In my prayer language, I heard your Spirit praying for me, and through signs and wonders I knew that you were an active God, living and breathing and among your people.

So where the hell are you now?

Maybe it’s me that has changed. I mean, my theology isn’t as simple as it was back then. It’s changed, mutated, grown, shrank, and become something that feels so far removed from what I believed while I prayed for revival and for your Spirit to fall. I used to believe it was so simple as I prayed for healings, as I prayed to cast out and bind demons. It felt so clear and natural.

I was also so young.

Was this all just the emotionalism of a child? Was this just indoctrination to cult like beliefs and theological frameworks? Is this now just nostalgia, turning a dangerous theology into remembering that stirs my heart with some sort of fondness? I don’t know how to separate my childish naivety from the simple truths I believed. Maybe there was no difference.

cropped-dsc_1962_01.jpgAmid all these questions are some truths I can’t deny, things I can’t shake or write off.

I read about how you walked the earth and what your followers did after you flew away. There were wondrous signs, powerful prayers, and spiritual gifts poured out on the earth. You didn’t seem so shy in those days. You seemed willing and able to be among your people as so human but so much still God. When I read about Jesus I’m stuck with his words, “You will do greater things than you have seen me do.” What the hell do I do with those words compared to how you hide these days? But I can’t shake the words, the deeds, the stories that tell me gospel, that tell me of you.

Say a little prayer for meAnd then there are my own experiences, the things I have heard, seen, felt, and touched with my own hands. The biggest thing is when I first spoke in tongues. Most people I know tell stories of fervent prayers by elders, laying on of hands, and a deep need to see this baptism of the Spirit so they knew you loved them. My story is different. I first spoke in tongues in the middle of the night. September 2, 1989, I woke up in the middle of the night praising you in a language that was not my own. I was nine years old at the time. There wasn’t a bunch of pressure on me to prove my salvation or to receive a second blessing. It just sort of happened, in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping. There was some sort of movement from you and I spoke in tongues. I can’t deny it. I can’t write it off as emotionalism or peer pressure. What do I do with it though? Do I continue to speak in tongues now, even though my theology has shifted and I’m unsure about my charismatic roots?
You won’t let me go about this. You won’t let me deny my past, but you won’t let my past be my future. So I don’t know what to do with this charismatic stuff, with this dynamic Spirit moving but not letting experience become my theology. I don’t know what to do with my past, or what to do with now since you don’t seem to move like that in my life any more.

But you used to move like that. Would it be so bad if you did again?

It would fuck with my theology yet again, but then again that is what you insist on doing all the time. You rarely let me be.

So, you who used to move, help me reconcile this history of signs and wonders with the wilderness that I now dwell in. You are the only one that can.

Then again, you are the only one who moves like that.

  • Yeah, I don’t know either. I have been nostalgic for it lately too – “it” being the prophesy, the intimacy in worship, the Words from the Lord, the “sweet presence of the Holy Spirit”. I think back to that time in my life with embarrassment, anger, sadness… but also this unexplainable longing. My old Pentecostal buddies would say that’s the Holy Spirit beckoning me back. I don’t think I can ever go back.

    • I get not being able to go back. I don’t think that’s what the Spirit is calling us to. There was so much harmful theology, abuse, power plays, and unhealthy dependence on experience. It would be reckless to go back.

      Maybe the Spirit is hinting that some of the things we miss were from him and can be brought out of our past in healthy ways. I may not have the answers, but I want to find them.

  • Daniel McDonald

    I once read that one of the common threads often found in the lives of saints was a season, often long where the sense of God’s presence dried up. One of the conclusions drawn from these experiences is that this takes place when God directs our faith from the felt presence of experiences to his hidden presence which must be believed upon by faith. Thomas may be an example of this he yearned for and received the ability to touch Jesus’ wounds, but after Jesus’ ascension that experience could only be a memory never repeatable. I’m not saying your charismatic experiences won’t come back, but when he seems to be hidden maybe all he is doing is drawing us to a deeper level of faith, wherein though we neither see nor feel him, we trust he is there, for in our faith we know he is there.

  • Ooooh. I love this, Aaron. Right here with you, brother.

  • Joy Allan

    Thanks for retweeting this Carly, it’s beautiful! My 2p’s worth (as someone who has been told to go back, and is doing so out of obedience, and slowly learning to wade her way through and love it all again) is this: Why should we go back in order to experience that which is good in all of this? We know where every good gift comes from. The rest is crud, and as we are growing older, part of the (painful) journey is learning to weed out the dross from the beauty.The very terms ‘Pentecostal’ and ‘Charismatic’ are man-made and relatively recent. God is not man-made, and definitely not relatively recent!! All this is a flippant way of saying keep searching, don’t feel that the churches which have abused you own all of this, because if they have abused you then they are not operating in the ‘gifts’ which truly matter, and are not truly proclaiming them. I say be free, explore, claim it as your own, and we will all grow to remember that the ONLY boundary line which we have as Christians is loving Him and our neighbour as ourselves…I personally find so much freedom in that… Thank you for your honesty. I love experiencing more of this journey through the people I ‘meet’ on the internet.

  • where’s my super suit

    My heart also aches for the weighty presence of a Holy and loving God! Man-made religion, along with rules about who we should love, government and such just seems to make me question my roots also. I know who God is and I cannot deny what He has done in my life over a period of 21 years, somewhere the control, and judgmental aspect has driven me far from the people who really know how to seek His face. I am constantly asking myself what are we really seeking, to be right or to find Him and let Him change me? I understand holiness and I agree we should live as to draw close, but last time I read the word Jesus was more about love your neighbor, give him you coat and a cup of cold water. I too want to see God move the way He used to, I have to wonder what it will take and in what group of seekers will He choose to manifest himself. I know that God is love and where there is love He will be present. Who holds the key to the next love revival?

  • Andrea Osterberg

    Wow. I loved this. I’m on this same journey right now. I worded it the other day that I can completely leave all that Holy Spirit stuff behind. Some was outrageous and ridiculous and not at all healthy, but there were these moments that I can’t deny were something. And combined with this belief that all this church stuff needs to be done different… plus this doubt that it can at all change. Walking wounded in a lot of ways, but truly, thank you for your honest and vulnerability and transparency. Standing with you there.

I reserve the right to moderate and delete comments at my sole discretion. Basically, don't be an ass or a troll, contribute to the conversation, and you can say what you want. This is my online home, not a free for all chat room. Thanks.