My first experience with anything related to the Holy Spirit came when I was 16. I had known about the practice of speaking in tongues before then--Mom had a coworker who was Pentecostal (of the dress-wearing, no makeup variety). But I never saw it until this day when I was singing at an Assembly of God. After I finished singing, the youth minister was laying hands on the kids and praying. A couple of them cried, and I got very bad vibes. He was moving in my direction, and I remember praying that he would not put his hands on me or pray for me to be filled with the spirit. And God was very merciful. He may have put a hand on me, but he did not do anything that made me uncomfortable. In retrospect, I think that he was aware that I was from a different church and he knew better than to push things with me. I think we even argued about the tongues issue when he took me home.
Now fast forward to my sophomore year at AU. During that previous spring, I had been involved with a group of students--probably about 30 or 35 in all--who met informally every night for prayer. The meetings were verypowerful, and sometime I will write about those. Some of the students did cry openly, and a few did jabber, but no one pressured anyone and I was never uncomfortable. So one night in September, one of the girls knocked on my door and asked if I would mind if she came in and talked to me. I was lonely, and I liked her a lot; so I invited her in.
Erin wanted to know if I had ever heard of the baptism of the Spirit. I clammed up right away, of course. She was very good about the whole thing. She said she had just felt led to ask me about it, and she was even great about my skepticism. She suggested that if it was valid God would show me in His time and that was fine. I told her I would think about it and sheassured me that she would be around if I ever wanted to talk about it. The next night, I wrote in my journal and said that if it was real then I wanted it but I didn't really want to speak in tongues. Then I went on with life and forgot about what I had prayed.
That fall semester went on, and that's when I met Vicki. Of course, when we met I hadno idea how horrific her life was. She was hiding, and I was inexperienced with signs of abuse. I just knew that I thought it was weird that she had to point out to me that he was "the love of her life". I assumed that if a person married someone he was obviously the love of her life. I know now that she was saying that in large part hoping to convince herself. At the time, I thought I was just squeamish about anything romantic--another friend was engaged at this time also, and it had always made me uncomfortable to hear her telling him over the phone that she loved him (usually after a fight). So I thought I was just having a general reaction to things.
Anyway, as time went on, I of course realized what was really going on, and it was very serious. Vicki's husband knew how to play the spiritual game very well. He would get dangerous, and she would leave; and then he would have an encounter with God and tell her all about it, and she would go home. Sadly, I think this is a huge part of what has made it hard for me to ever pray for marriages. I prayed with my entire being that fall, and I believed every time he supposedly had a change of heart. I know now that praying is my responsibility and changing hearts is God's; but I still haven't figured out how to deal with the issue of free will and what happens when it prevents God from answering. Watching things get worse and worse for Vicki shook me to the core; and watching her stay because she believed divorce was wrong under any circumstance (and knowing that she died because of this) made an impression on me that I don't think will ever be erased. Still, i learned things from the whole experience, and one of the most important was what the filling of the Spirit really is.
During Thanksgiving week, Vicki was staying in a motel. I wanted nothing more than to be with her and hold her and pray with her. But I was home in Houston, and I was out of touch some of the time and I didn't even know how to pray anymore. But all week I kept feeling the urge to pray and read the Bible (something else I didn't do very regularly). On Friday, the urges to pray were very strong. I didn't know what I could say that hadn't been said,so I just kept saying, "God, You know my heart. Please hear me and protect Vicki." I could feel some kind of vibes around me at all times, and I actually felt very expectant.
Friday evening, Dad took me and my cousin, Randy, to a Twila Paris concert. Of course, you know how much I love Twila Paris anyway, and normally I am very giddy about the idea of going to a concert. But the experience that night surpassed almost every other concert experience I've ever had inintensity except for that Sandi Patti concert in 1984. Every song she sang was something that was appropriate for the situation. I found myself wishing Vicki could be there, and then I sort of spaced out.
When I "woke up," I realized that my mouth was moving. I was whispering, but I didn't know what I had said. I knew what had happened, and I was surprised that it didn't frighten me. I had done the very thing I never wanted to do, but I wasn't shouting or forcing anything or even really aware of what I was doing. And I wasn't afraid. I just understood that God's Spirit had been empowering me and controlling what I had been doing all week; and I understood that the point of the baptism with the Spirit is that I am given power to accomplish a task that God has set before me. It isn't about a specific sign or miracle. It is about being empowered.
The other day I suddenly thought of the verse that says, "Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit." I remember having a sort of revelation. Being drunk is an escape. Being filled with the Spirit is a solution. it is *the* answer to whatever problem we face. It was the answer when the disciples were brought on trial. It was the answer when anyone was preaching. It is the answer when we need joy. It is the answer when we fight spiritual warfare. It is the thing that enables me to do anything God sets before me! It is the thing that enables me to be like Christ and walk in God's ways. And it is the answer when I don't know how to pray.