Even now, I feel her
The bulk of my adult faith has been spent as a member of a Pentecostal church.
Speaking in tongues wasn’t just common, it was expected. The evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. If you didn’t… well… maybe you weren’t ready… but more than likely, you weren’t really a Christian. At least, that’s the vibe that comes across. At best, you were a “second class” Christian. You were going to make it in to Heaven, but don’t even consider getting a front row seat – you’d get the balcony behind a pole between two large men who take up your arm rests.
I moved to Chicago four years ago. I had no idea I was disillusioned with my faith until I was given the freedom to question things. At first, I didn’t even know what to question. I had accepted everything I was given, and those things that I didn’t like, I just refused to contemplate them. Slowly but surely, I came to realize that the God I was serving had looked and acted identical to my former pastor. Even God’s voice was the same.
There isn’t anything wrong with connecting to God that way as a starting point, but there needs to be more. Otherwise, you’re really worshiping man, not God.
Two years of working out my faith – with fear, trembling, honesty, bravery, alcohol, swear words, tears, and lots of books on theology, I caught a glimpse of God. God looks nothing like any pastor I had ever had. God’s voice isn’t filled with bass and bravado. God isn’t a man. God isn’t a woman. God transcends sex and gender. God is light. God is love. God is truth. God is peace. God is not confusion. God is not hate. God is not intolerance. God is humor. God is comfort and security.
I found myself going to a new church, this one is Methodist. The part of me still holding on to legalism was ashamed that I had to settle for a Methodist church. I might as well have been a secular humanist. As I continued to go to the church, I realized that what I had been told of what Methodism is and isn’t was not only inaccurate, but it didn’t matter. I connected with amazing people, theologians and now friends. This church is my home and family.
The beauty of this place, is I can praise God and be the only one with my arms stretched out, pacing in the back, dancing, or standing in place with my hands in my pocket, and there would not be a single judgment cast about how I worship our God. So often I felt that if I weren’t demonstrative enough at church, that it would appear I was backsliding.
This Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. I remember it being a big deal before, but nothing of substance ever seemed to happen. Yesterday, our pastor mentioned it with little fanfare, and yet, I felt the Holy Spirit move on me in such a powerful way, a way that I missed. It was like seeing a dear friend after years and running into her arms for a hug that melted away the time and the miles. I spoke in tongues, I felt her fire. Even now, I feel her.
I feel grateful for all of the churches I’ve been a part of. The ones that gave me knowledge, the ones that gave me passion, the ones that taught me discipline, the one that gave me freedom, and this one most of all that has taught me to experience God in more ways than I knew existed.