A Pepper Grinder Post

Wind in the Trees

Once upon a time there was a forest of trees.  These trees passed down to their children a group of stories about special times in the history of the forest.  There were stories of the first trees planted in the forest, of how the forest spread, and the frightening story of the great fire that wiped out all but a few trees.  The trees worshipped the one who had planted them, and they cherished the stories of special times the planter had done mighty things in the forest.  Often, special visits by the planter were accompanied by huge storms with powerful wind.  Some of these storms were so powerful that almost unimaginable things happened, like a mighty tree being bent so its top branches brushed the ground.

quiet treeAfter a time, there came to be two groups of trees who worshipped the planter in different ways.  One group admitted that the planter had often brought violent storms in the past, but they felt he acted differently now.  They maintained that because the planter had done so much for them, and because they had the whole set of stories of what the planter had done in the past, he no longer needed to bring powerful storms to the forest.  These trees liked to congregate in deep valleys where the wind hardly ever blew.  Even if there was a wind blowing in the valley, these trees would try to hold themselves motionless.  They felt that to bend and sway in the wind would be opening the door to wild practices that might lead them away from the teachings of the stories.

The other group longed for the exciting days of the past.  They wanted to see the planter bring violent storms as he had sometimes done in the stories.  They maintained that the planter was the same person he had been in the past and saw no reason to think he would change his way of acting.  These trees tended to congregate on top of the highest hills they could find.  They wanted to feel as much of the wind as they could.  The trouble was that even with their exposed location, there were many days when there was little or no wind.  These trees believed the wind was the only thing which showed that the planter was at work among them.  They forgot that between the exciting storms in the stories, there were calm days which hadn’t been mentioned.  So, they taught themselves to shake and bend even when there was no wind at all.  They were proud of this, because it showed that the planter truly was working amongst them every single day.

Anyone have a guess what this is an analogy of?  If you guessed the disagreements between charismatics and non-charismatics in the modern Christian church, you win the prize!  In a way, I don’t think this is a completely fair analogy for the church, because it seems to me that there are a good number of Christians who believe God does sometimes intervene supernaturally in our lives and who don’t necessarily think the so-called supernatural spiritual gifts have ceased to function, but who do not feel that absence of these things shows God is not at work.

However, it has been my experience that there are two significant groups of believers who behave like the two sets of trees.  One group is uncomfortable with people getting too emotional.  Bible-based reasoning is the safe way to arrive at the truth.  Emotion and emotional experiences might open one up to being led astray.  These groups sometimes explicitly deny that God now uses some of the techniques he used in the early church, or at least wants to think of these kinds of action as so rare as to be almost unheard of.  For them, prophetic messages have been replaced by sermons, gifts of healing are unneeded because of the medical expertise we have access to, and the gift of speaking in tongues has, thankfully, gone away altogether.

tree in the windAnother group is totally open to God acting supernaturally.  My opinion is that this openness is a good thing.  I do not think you can make a sound exegetical argument that God has decided to stop giving out some of the “crazier” gifts mentioned in the New Testament.  However, I have been in charismatic churches where I had the distinct feeling that emotions and even things like prophecies were being produced by the worshippers and worship leaders, rather than flowing out of the Holy Spirit.  Any time we put ourselves into a box where God must act dramatically at every single worship service, we have gone astray in a serious way.  When this happens, if God does not do something special, we humans are forced to fill in the gap, and are thus displaying the spiritual equivalent of a three dollar bill.

So what’s my advice?  Let God be God.  If he wants to do something supernatural, let’s not stand in his way!  But if he has a quiet time of thoughtful introspection planned for us, let’s let him do that too.

There will be sunny days when he just wants us to suck up the water, soak in the sun, and grow.  There will be other days when our branches will be whipping around in a violent storm.  Both are from God.  Both are good.