It was 4:00 a.m. and a gentle breeze was flowing in through the window next to our bed. The rhythmic sound of the leaves stirring in the treetops accompanied the breeze. I lay without covers for a few minutes, savoring the early morning refreshment, with no intent to rise for a few more hours. When I became chilled, I snuggled under the warm blankets, leaving one leg uncovered under the window as I slowly drifted back asleep. When I awoke the sound and the breeze were gone, and I was refreshed.
This week I read an article that spoke of how the Holy Spirit works in us through God’s Word – primarily teaching us things, but also, secondarily, working in us even when we do not sense it. It’s point, to which I agree, was that the reading of God’s Word is valuable even when we do not experience any “Oh’s” or “Ah’s”. What I disagreed with was the author’s arrangement of primary and secondary values of our time in God’s Word. I view the “I never realized that” or “I have to remember that” moments of learning to be more like foam on top of a mug of beer. The primary work of the Holy Spirit in us through God’s Word goes more like the growth of our children (or our waistlines) – unnoticed until we take the time to step back and view the change.
To Nicodemus Jesus said, “The wind flows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3.8) These words of Jesus have always reminded me of Elijah’s encounter with the Lord in 1 Kings 19. “The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a thin silence.” (1 Kings 19.11-12) It was in the “thin silence” – a low whisper – that the Lord came to Elijah.
Thus I do not read the Bible so much to learn things (as much as I need to learn more and enjoy learning new things) as to live in the gentle breeze – sometimes accompanied by the rustle of the leaves, but often times not – of the Holy Spirit’s refreshment and formation. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4.6) In the same light, my primary goal in this weekly note is not that people learn things, but that it might serve as an appealing appetizer that draws us all into more than just a weekly few minutes of the Spirit’s refreshment and formation. How does Jesus say it? “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4.14)
While being awake at 4:00 a.m. is not is not necessarily something I savor, that gentle breeze and the wind in the treetops transformed the experience. Something I do greatly savor, though, is that “thin silence” of the Spirit – his gentle breeze that comes to me in God’s Word. And, as I prepare to return from vacation, I cannot help but wonder what I can do to help more people experience the same.