This weekend, the Garden, the church in Long Beach I have the privilege of walking with, hosted the second Empowered conference – seeking to open up a conversation about the Spirit empowered life – the life that Jesus lived and invites us to live with Him. I wasn’t able to attend the whole weekend, but what I did get to was water to my dry and thirsty soul – a gentle, steady rain that soaked down deep.
I grew up in time of occasional revivals – wonderful visitations of God, or at least of an evangelist, in which we experienced remarkable outpourings of the Spirit for days at a time. One or two of those events stand out in my memory as being defining moments for me. The problem with the revivals, as wonderful as they were, is that, like a Southern California sudden rainstorm, eighty percent of the down-pour ended up in the ocean! The long term results of those meetings were not nearly as remarkable as the momentary experiences. Now don’t get me wrong – I treasure those moments of experience. But what I long for is the ongoing, gentle filling and re-filling by the Holy Spirit.
The church of my childhood provided that, too. Every Sunday was an opportunity for me to respond to the tug of the Holy Spirit, desiring to alleviate the dryness in my soul. Sunday morning and evening services provided space and time for encounter with God – a long, slow, soaking in an environment of calm and gentle worship. It was not nearly as remarkable – but it was far more effective in shaping the character of Christ in me. For every dramatic experience in a service of revival that served as a marker, I can remember dozens of quiet nights and early afternoons with my face buried in the front pew just waiting in God’s presence for whatever He would choose to bring.
It is not nostalgia that makes me long for a return to that simple waiting. It is a deep and desperate dryness in my soul – a longing that goes beyond words. I wouldn’t mind the sudden downpour of a spirit of revival every once in a while – but I know that what my dry and thirsty land needs even more is the gentle, consistent, regular filling and refilling by the Holy Spirit. I think He knows that is what I need, as well – and that is why, if I set aside the time for Him, I usually find that He has set aside the time for me.