How My Church Accidentally Taught Me About the Holy Spirit

by Elizabeth


Last summer at a conference, the worship leader asked us to close our eyes and think back to the person who first told us about Jesus, to think back to the day we decided to follow Him and get baptized, and to try to remember the first person we wanted to tell afterwards. The exercise prompted a memory I hadn’t thought of in a long time. It was something I never articulated at the time but have definite memory of.

When I spoke with my parents about wanting to be baptized, mostly I verbalized the knowledge of my sin and the fear of hell. (I think most people verbalize those things in the beginning.) I knew I wanted forgiveness for my sins, yes, but I also had the distinct thought that I didn’t want to go back to public school that fall unless the Holy Spirit were living in me. I’m not sure why I wanted this because I wasn’t part of a church that preached the Holy Spirit. If anything, I was in a church that preached against the Holy Spirit.

But we were required to memorize Acts 2:38, and you cannot contain the very words of God, even when you try. Men may preach against the Holy Spirit, but men’s preaching can’t stop the Word of God from promising this to us: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By that time the Word of God was deep in my heart from all that memorizing. I knew the Holy Spirit was supposed to be given to me, and I wanted that gift.

Nowadays it seems normal to speak of the Holy Spirit’s movement in my life. But once upon a time it seemed novel. And when that worship leader had us think back on our deciding-to-follow-Jesus moments, he in a very tangible way reframed my life. I began to see my Holy Spirit awakening, two decades later, through the seed of Acts 2:38.

All that hunger to know God more, to encounter God more, to hear God’s voice, it seemed so new and exciting at the time. Now I also see it as the flowering of a long-dormant seed. God placed a desire in my teenage heart that I didn’t understand at the time. I am so thankful that this Trinitarian God of ours continues to walk alongside me and teach me more of who He is.


*I treasure my church upbringing. It taught me reverence for the Scriptures and gave me facility with the main Story (and main stories) of the Bible. It instilled in me a love for worship through song and a deep appreciation for the institution of the Church. Though I have grown in my understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit, I will always be thankful for the churches of my childhood.

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