Wind of God, Unpredictable...
In 2005, I attended a gathering of young church leaders convened by Allelon and hosted by Alan Roxburgh. People from all over the world came to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, for a couple of days of conversation about building missional communities.
One of the people there was a Kiwi named Steve Taylor. Steve recently moved to Adelaide, Australia; prior to that, he planted a church in New Zealand, taught at Laidlaw College, and wrote a book called The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change. I don't know Steve very well, but I was bummed when he left New Zealand before I arrived. However, that is not the point of this post...
At the beginning of the leaders' gathering in Pasadena, Alan asked Steve to lead the group in an opening exercise/invocation. First, Steve handed everyone a post-card with a photograph of a new art gallery that had recently opened in Christchurch. He spoke briefly about a number of things related to the gallery, including the importance of creativity and listening to marginalized voices.
Then he taught us about the "hongi," a traditional Maori greeting in which one person presses their forehead and nose against the forehead/nose of the other. It is a very intimate gesture. The idea is that you share the intimacy of breathing with the other, literally sharing the breath of life (the "ha"). When breath is shared and intermingled, the visitor is no longer considered a stranger, but rather a person of the land ("tangata whenua"). Steve invited the group to greet one another in this traditional Maori way.
Finally, Steve talked about relying on God at a time when so much else is unreliable - or at least unpredictable. He shared a prayer with us that we then prayed.
Why do I share this story now? While the exercise Steve led in 2005 was very powerful, it was my rediscovery of this postcard last fall that really made an impact on me. Late last fall, after I had resigned from Jacob's Well, I returned to my office to clean it out and box it up. As I sorted through my files (seeing what I wanted to keep and what could be thrown away), I found this postcard while going through files of old conference notes. Because of the impression Steve's prayer made on me at the time of the conference, I wrote it out on the back of the postcard.
If you can't read my handwriting, it says:
"Wind of God, unpredictable, blow on us;
Wind of God, unpredictable, blow on me.
Wind of God, unpredictable, be the arriving and the departing;
Wind of God, unpredictable, be the journey and the destination.
Wind of God, unpredictable, be praised."
To randomly find a postcard from a place I would soon being leaving for...I can't adequately describe how powerful it was to read and then pray that prayer at a time when everything in my life felt like it was being "blown" apart. The inscription of that simple, beautiful prayer helped me to see the Holy Spirit's leading and provision where I was experiencing only anxiety and chaos.
We have been invited to share breath with God - to breath, even host, the Holy Breath. We are people who live animated by the presence of the indwelling Wind, the One of whom Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." Then, as now, it is important to remember that wherever we go, God is present, breathing in and through us for his glory. That realization was, and continues to be, a good gift to me.
May it be so for you, too.