The wind is blowing today. I'm not talking about a summer breeze rippling softly through the grass, but wind, mighty enough that the giant evergreens that rim our hilly neighborhood sway in the sky overhead and the deciduous trees rain leaves like heavy, multi-colored snow. I sit on our deck in my shorts and sleeveless shirt, drinking my morning tea, reading the Psalms and listen to this wonderful sound of wind because even though the calendar might declare that summer has ended and the trees know it's time (again) to drop those autumn leaves, the sun shines and the wind is warm.
Today I love this warm wind. I always love the wind, actually. I love the frenzy it can whip up on water, locomote clouds, and even propel people at times. Invisible, powerful wind. Air with force. I realize I have not had to fight it when it counts. I've had umbrellas turn inside out, coats and even skirts lift from it--sometimes even to my momentary embarrassment--but wind has never been my enemy. Not in any real sense. I've stood at winds and watched its power, but haven't had to pray for my life caught in a frothy sea stirred up by it.
But sometimes I haven't loved the results of wind. When a mighty wind came roaring down the Frazer Valley one autumn, our home was caught in its path and we lost a large portion of our roof one night. The rain came next, and Beve had to climb up into the attic in the post-midnight hours to jerry-rig some kind of protection until daylight so water didn't pour straight into the house. The window of E's bedroom actually blew out during that same storm. The next morning, with no power and schools closed, all the neighbors on our street helped each other pick up the pieces, replace shingles and put in new windows. It was one of the most communal times we had living there, and though not good, I thank the wind for that. If that makes sense.
I haven't always loved wind. When I was a child, there was a wind I resented as much as any kind of weather. It's called the Chinook, a wind of the Palouse. A lovely, pile of snow had fallen, the kind of snow sure to cancel school and let us pull out our sleds and go over to Jefferson Elementary School (where Beve and I both attended) and we'd be all set to spend the day sledding on what I have to tell you was the very best sledding hill anyone has ever seen. That hill at Jefferson was so perfect, and we grew up at such a time that we were actually allowed to slide down it during recess each snowy day. In winter, Beve purposely wore his giant wing-tip shoes because they were smooth on the bottom and he'd be allowed to slide STANDING UP all the way to the bottom. That hill was a two level hill with a flat space in the middle where, during non-snowy days, the older boys played football. The hill was steep enough above it, however, that you could slide (for me it was on my coat, NOT standing), across the flat, and down the next steep part all the way to the parking lot, where the only obstacle was a light pole in the center of the bottom. Sliding was great, but with sleds we could make it all the was across the parking lot and practically hit the school building. And that, my friends, was the goal...well, not quite the goal, but close enough.
(I have to say one of the most tragic losses to Beve and me in Pullman has long been the remodel of that elementary school, because that hill was destroyed in the process. We don't drive past very often, but if we ever have occasion to when we're in town, we have a moment of silence for what was lost. In fact, I think we should stop for a moment right now.)
OK. So there would be a steady snow fall all afternoon and evening. The streets and cars and every other thing so covered, we'd go to bed certain the next day would be one of sledding. Or at least of sliding at recess. But in the middle of the night a wind would begin to blow in. A warm wind, called the Chinook. And by the next morning when I stumbled out of bed, that winter wonderland would have disappeared. Wiped completely clean. Back to the drab gray world where no sledding was possible. At least that's how it always felt to me.
But when I became a Christian and first really read the New Testament, I really began my love affair with wind. In John 3, when he asks about being saved, Jesus speaks the impenetrable words about how the a person born of the Spirit is like the wind: "A wind blows where it will..." This intrigued me. Still does. It takes reading Acts 1 to make sense of John 3, I think. In Acts 2, we get it. "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where [the apostles] were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (vs.2-3)
The Holy Spirit comes upon us like wind. A wind not merely as warm as today's outside my house here in NW Washington State or the kind of tropical breezes one finds in...well, the tropics, obviously (though someone today told me it felt exactly like we were in the tropics. I loved it--she was appalled). No that Spirit-wind of Acts was fiery hot, lighting each it landed on with a white hot passion not merely for the moment but for the rest of their lives.
This is what the Spirit does. He blows fire into us, then sweeps away the dead leaves of our past, perhaps, or even the snow that we built around our hearts. Something burns clean and new. And then whatever we thought to make of ourselves takes second place to what He wants to make of us. To where He blows us. That's what it means, Jesus said to Nicodemus, to be born of the Spirit. We are born once and go our way, and that's one thing. Then born of the Spirit and go whatever way He blows us. If we let Him.
I love the wind. And the Wind. He is the one who blows my life where He will. Blow, Spirit, blow.