Off to See the Wizard

Taking the “abracadabra” out of understanding the workings of the Holy Spirit is important if, well, we truly want to understand those workings at all. Popular religion operates according to childish, magical notions of faith. The Holy Spirit is treated as a sort of divine sorcerer. This is hardly an attitude that leads to a mature faith.

When we actually experience the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we find that it’s a different experience than we’ve been led to believe. At least than we’ve been told by those who need to hide behind a fire-and-thunder, Wizard of Oz concept of God. Most of the time, it’s so subtle that if we aren’t paying attention because we’re expecting something else, it would be easy to miss it.

Thoughts will occur to us that would not have otherwise. And when tested, they turn out to be better than anything we know we would have come up with on our own. And they do turn out to be in accordance with God’s Word in Scripture – only not because we’ve twisted them into a pretzel to do our bidding.

Things people say or do will hit us in a different way than they would have otherwise. Whether God’s Spirit prompts them to say or do whatever they do or they would have done so anyway, we get something from them we would normally have missed. Our entire train of thought is routed onto new tracks, into territory we have never explored before.

God meets us right where we are. God knows us better than we know ourselves – having made us in the first place – and really doesn’t expect us to be somewhere we aren’t. The problem with the “godly” people who so often criticize us is that they don’t know us, so they expect us to be entirely different people than we are and lack the ability to really deal with us at all. Their problem is that they are strangers not only to us, but to truth and even to basic reality – a strange place for people of credible faith to be. They can’t remake us, because they didn’t make us to begin with.

They want to think that we don’t listen to their admonitions because we’re evil. The fact is that we don’t listen to them because they are talking not out of their heads, but out of their hindquarters. But like children, they need to see things exactly the way they want them to be. Then they project their own behavior onto us by accusing us of doing that. Trying to reason with homophobic Christians is like spending our time on a playground trying to reason with kindergarteners, which explains why the endeavor can be so unrewarding.

For believers to communicate with one another in the Holy Spirit, they must understand not only how God communicates with us, but also how “He” does not. We need to be aware of the withered little man behind the screen. That little man may, indeed, be the mightiest of wizards in our shallow and power-hungry world, but he is not God.

People have always been too self-absorbed to readily recognize truth. There are few spectacles as pathetically ridiculous as when self-satisfied Christians cluck their tongues at Pontius Pilate because he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” I have been one of the cluckers, and I’m ashamed of myself. Pilate struggled with the question, caring far more about what happened to Jesus than did many of the “good religious people” who demanded His death. We can be pretty sure that question – and that stormy couple of days, when it demanded an answer as never before – haunted Pilate for all the rest of his days.

The Holy Spirit gets blamed for every self-indulgent notion our own “good religious people” dream up. But the truth, when it actually surfaces, does not glorify them; it glorifies God alone. It is utterly fascinating to watch LGBT people battle for a place in the Body of Christ. Even many fair-minded straight people are captivated by it. Again, God is proving to be bigger, more powerful and more surprising than the self-appointed guardians of purity and truth can handle.

I believe a lot of our spiritual dryness and deadness stems from our hesitancy in trusting that God is bigger than our antagonists. They don’t speak for God when they denigrate us and attempt to glorify themselves. God has led us to the brink of something so exciting, so unexpected, that we find it hard to believe. We have come through the desert, and we blink at the vision before us, afraid it may only be a mirage. But there it is: the Emerald City – and it is very, very real.

Pay no attention to the shriveled little man behind the screen. The Holy Spirit speaks and acts not to do the bidding of any human being. The Holy Spirit speaks and acts on behalf of the God Who made us, and Whom the Bible says loves all “He” has made. It’s not a mirage; the City is real. The flying monkeys may screech and pelt us with poop, but they are rapidly losing their power to hurt us.

These people may go on picketing soldiers’ funerals. They may keep scrounging up has-been actors to make “bold” pronouncements about how “destructive” our “lifestyle” is. They may go on voting for sociopaths who share their cheesy science fiction fantasies about our plots to destroy the world and make sad frowny faces about our “immorality.” Let them circle overhead and screech, and bring on the poop.

Thank God that God is God. There is a very real sense in which each of us bears the spark of God in us – the Holy Spirit promised us by Christ. It is a tragicomic irony that we are derided for speaking of God as being right here with us, and not somewhere far away and high overhead. The same people doing the deriding are absolutely certain that they speak for God – indeed, that they are God, themselves.

But the Holy Spirit will always speak the words of Christ, and Christ welcomes all who come to Him. The Bible says that no one may say that Christ is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit. And Jesus never hides behind a screen. Pay no attention to the man behind the screen. Let us never cower before the wizard again.