Friday, September 10, 2004

Spirit In The Guy

I said I would venture down this road today, so here I go...I will warn those of you who consider any blog entry longer than four paragraphs too wordy, that I'm going to blow that limit by a wide margin.

As I mentioned yesterday, in July I had a dream which I actually remembered, something of an uncommon occurrence for me. In it, Gordon, my Real Live Pastor and I were in a swimming pool and across from us was a woman. The only thing I remembered about her was that she had a mullet hair style. The dream ended with Gordon asking her, "Did you get your mullet at the airport?"

At the time I thought it rather silly and figured it was as good an excuse as any to make fun of Gordon, so I did. However I also mentioned my father-in-law was rather well versed in dream interpretation, particularly influenced by the thinking of Carl Jung.

The posting did not go unnoticed by my father-in-law and he eagerly accepted the challenge to interpret the dream. Here's what he said, I've only edited out a small portion:

This is what in the analysis business is known as an initial dream. A dream is so called because the unconscious has somehow been stimulated to produce a product from which will flow more dream content, all in the service of a process known as individuation. That simply means becoming an individual. It's the stuff of which wholeness is made. Initial dreams normally constitute the beginning of an analysis, and if an analysis is to be properly served, each succeeding dream must be dealt with in order to keep the process going. As Jung put it: "Constant observation pays the unconscious a tribute that more or less guarantees its cooperation."

I laid this little Psych 101 tutorial on you in order to encourage you to continue regarding your inner life as a legitimate object for reflection.

The simple plot contains the following symbols:
Water = the unconscious
Airport = place of spirit
Fish = unconscious contents (Yes, the mullet is also a fish)
Gordon = counselor, guide, Spiritus Rector
Woman = the Anima, your feminine nature, the inner man, the embodiment of your unconscious
Actually, the dream is a statement of your current spiritual situation, and Gordon is asking the critical question, directing it to your inner man. It's like the question posed by Paul to the Ephesians in Acts 19:2. See also Jn 3:5.

You need to understand that this dream statement is not a value judgment. It draws no conclusions . . . merely asks a question.

Whether you agree with my father-in-law's interpretation really has no bearing since it struck home to me rather poignantly.

You see I had spent the Lenten season studying the book of Acts and the one question I was left with during that time was the exact question my father-in-law had referenced in Acts.

Paul asked the Ephesians:

"Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

So you'll have the full reference to contemplate, John 3:5 reads:

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Okay, now here's the truly interesting part, at least to me...those of you who don't read past four paragraphs have already departed anyway.

I had not mentioned that particular spiritual struggle to anyone...not to Amy, not to Gordon, not to my was a question I was pondering well after the Lenten season had ended and was actively wrestling with at the time I had that dream - had I truly ever received the Holy Spirit? If so, was this not something of which I should be keenly aware?

It was - bar none- the dominant spiritual issue in my life at that time, so I thought the interpretation was insightful and quite honestly a little spooky.

There are people I know who believe you can not be received into God's Kingdom unless you demonstrate that the Holy Spirit resides within you...and to them that requires one thing - you speak in tongues, as referenced in the second chapter of Acts.

As you can probably discern, I am not given to speaking in tongues. Ours is not a charismatic church. When I belonged to a semi-charismatic church no one spoke in tongues, although some people - including the Pastor - often spoke for far too long to the point where I'm certain only God understood them, but I don't think that's the same thing.

Truthfully, the only times I've been to churches where people spoke in tongues it freaked me out. Sometimes it seemed rather out of control and I certainly didn't understand what the people were saying which would by that lone criteria seem to indicate I hadn't made the grade.

When I first wrote about this, my friend Jim immediately sent me a very gentle email offering himself as someone who might guide me by his own experiences, should I so desire. I'm not sure if Jim ever got my was lengthy and may have gotten tangled in that infernal Hotmail he uses (Jim- if you want a Gmail account...just holler).

Anyway, in part I wrote to him: I don't know if I will ever come to a point where I am 'brimming over' with the Holy Spirit....but I've changed a lot in the past 12 years...who knows?

I don't know if I am in fact already baptized in the Spirit in that God has given me the ability to listen to others, to care, to love and to accept them...despite our differences, not only our theological ones.

I do know I haven't had a "sudden" revelation that the Holy Spirit has come upon me...but then again, I never had a sudden "born again" moment either. I came to God gradually; can the Holy Spirit come to me gradually?

Certainly there are many times when I am overcome by the power and wonderment of His mercies and grace.

I fall to my knees and wail in tears far more often than anyone knows.

If outpouring of emotion is the signifier than I suppose I qualify....unless that outpouring must be done via a great public which case I don't qualify. My closest moments with God are often in times of solitude...some of them very dark times.

That now seems rather foreboding, considering that less than a week later Amy entered the hospital and spent the entire month there.

I think my spiritual experiences during that time have been well chronicled here. I believe anyone who's read along already knows this, but I'll say it again, the last 4 to 6 weeks have by far been the most spiritually enlightening time of my Christian date. I have come to know God in an entirely new way...humbled and bowed...awed and amazed.

Today I received an extremely encouraging email from my friend Ray who was raised in the United Pentecostal Church and who has been given the gift of tongues. Yet he was quick to offer me this insight:
It's not the manifestations of the gifts that mean you have the Holy Spirit.... First you receive the Holy Spirit when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, then as YOU desire the gifts of the spirit He will freely give to all that you desire. (The desires of the Heart)

That resonated a great deal with me too. I write often about discerning a lesson from God in rather common things or events. I suspect some might feel that I do that in part to try to justify God's existence. That's not the case at all.

I do actively look for God's influence on my life...not to prove He's there, but because I don't want to miss anything.

I'm not the same Christian I was 12 years ago...heck I'm not the same Christian I was 12 weeks ago.

One thing I'm certain of though is that God wants us to be open to Him and from the very beginning "the way" to understanding all of the gifts He has to offer has been through "community."

I feel the Holy Spirit in me today because of people like my father in law and Amy; like Gordon, Chuck, Jim and Ray...fellow sojourners seeking all of God's gifts anxiously.

That being said, it seems obvious I should invite others on the journey and listen to them as well....for perhaps I'll hear God speaking in an entirely new way.