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Have you ever been really thirsty?

June 8, 2014

Have you ever been really thirsty? I’ve never been days without water as you see in some survival stories. But I have been really thirsty; so thirsty that I was light headed and my tongue was sticking to my mouth. I was in my early teens and was walking in the North York Moors. It had been a long walk over rough paths right through a hot day. I had water with me but, being tired, I forgot to top up half way. I had started in the early morning and by the afternoon my water ran out. By early evening I was thirsty, by late evening I still had about 5 miles to go, and that was when I really felt thirsty. Then about 2 miles further there was a little stream coming out of a rock and running across the path. I was high up and it was clean. I scrambled up to where it came out of the rock and drank gulp after gulp from my hands and filled my water bottles. It seemed like nectar. When I woke up the next morning the water was so full of iron that I tipped it away. But that night it was sweet.

It is that longing for water that I think about when I read John 7.37-39 and think of Pentecost. That longing is how I should always feel. Longing for more of the Spirit. The difference though is that the Spirit is sweet every time I taste. In fact the Spirit seems to be sweeter every time. The more the Spirit works in me the more I learn to love his presence in me, the taste of God’s wisdom and power working through me.

I can read the description of that first Pentecost in Acts 2, but for me it is that image of living, flowing water that really moves me. I’ve never been to Jerusalem, and even if I had I would find it hard to really imagine what it would have been like to have been their 2,000 years ago. I am not a Jew, and I’m not from Pamphilia, or Syria or anywhere else like that. I am English, so those stories, while moving, are always a little distant from me.

But water, and the longing for good clean water. Now that I can understand. Even if it is just that most English of wishes – for a good cup of tea. It’s been a busy day and you long for that cuppa that seems to be calling to you from home. The pleasure of that first cuppa of the morning. That is something I can understand. I know that it’s now where near the pleasure of receiving the Holy Spirit but it is at least a start.

After all, how can I ever truly describe the experience of the Holy Spirit: The knowledge that the God who created all things is in me, working through me; is one with me if I’ll let him in. Now that is beyond words. That experience can only be experienced. It changes everything for ever.

Colours are brighter and sharper with the Spirit. The world is suddenly alive with God’s life and power. God is present in the good and bad in my life. The Spirit flows with my dears and shakes with my laughter. How wonderful is that. The Spirit leads and guides, when I let him. Then things work out.

I’ve noticed that if I try to speak or plan or organise, I quickly get weighed down by the impossibility of caring for 7 churches, 3 church primary schools, and a church high school. Everything becomes too much to bear. Then I laugh at myself. I really am pretty stupid. None of this is my job. My job is to be open to the Holy Spirit within me, to listen and respond to his guidance. That is what led me to this place. Then it is as though a cloud lifts, a weight too, I hand back to God all that was always his anyway.

Then good things happen – the right things, at the right time. I listen to the Spirit and I become more sensitive to the opportunities that he has prepared.

Then I feel proud of what has happened. I take control again, and that heavy weight descends once again. Then everything is a struggle again, I get grumpy, and things just don’t go as they should. It is as though I’m thirsty, desperately thirsty for the Spirit, but I’ve convinced myself that I’m too busy to stop and drink. Stupid, I know, but I never claimed to be that bright!

Finally, I turn to prayer again. The Spirit flows back into my mind and heart and I’m restored again. I drink deeply from God, and the light comes back on. I don’t have the certainty of knowing the future, but I do know that I’m going the right way. The Spirit doesn’t always give the reasons but his presence alone gives all the reassurance that I need.

I know this is a bit rambling. But that is what a relationship with the Spirit is. The Spirit flows where he wills. Sometimes, I have the illusion of knowing where I’m headed or even of being in control. But always the Spirit flows where he wills. In me… and in you?..

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