By: Dennis Bates
Do you ever think that there was a mix up at the hospital when you were born and somehow your parents got the wrong baby? Sometimes I do.
I was raised in the Presbyterian church. It was a chance of birth. My father had never really gone to church all that much and my mother’s family had always been Presbyterians. When I was growing up the doctrine was traditional reformed theology, and the training was sound. We went to confirmation classes for a year and memorized lots of Bible verses, among other things. Then in 8th grade we joined the church. To this day I am grateful for that training. I still remember lots of the verses and they have sustained me many a time.
However, Presbyterians are sometimes referred to as the “Frozen Chosen”, and there’s a reason for that besides good natured teasing. They would rather implode than outwardly show any emotion in a church service. You can get them to laugh at really funny stories told at the proper time in the sermon, and these days you can even get them to applaud every now and then as long as you don’t mind the sound of one wooden hand clapping. In short, the Presbyterian watch word is that the service should be conducted “decently and in good order.” Those are actual words in the Presbyterian Book of Order, which is kind of the rule book for what should and shouldn’t be done.
My problem is, I am just not made that way. Skip the reference to decent and good order for a moment, since that clearly is not me. I am an emotional person and time and time again I feel as if I have to stifle those emotions during a church service or I will be viewed as some sort of Pentecostal spy in the sanctuary. Sometimes I just what to shout out Amen or Hallelujah, you know what I mean? The only thing that saves me is that there are less and less statements in church these days that would elicit that type of response. I hope that isn’t too subtle.
On the other hand, evidently the Holy Spirit forgot to read the Book of Order. Last Sunday, just when I was feeling a little disconnected with all things spiritual and looking for the way back, an old hymn closed the service. I’ve sung it maybe a hundred times over the years, but Sunday was different. As I started to sing it, all I could hear and feel were the words coming right back at me.
“Open my eyes that I may see Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.”
There are two other verses, but by the final line of the last refrain, I was starting to lose it. That line says simply”
“Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine.”
I couldn’t have been raised frozen at that point. How can you beg the Holy Spirit to open your heart, and then not be moved to tears when he does? When I walked out of the service someone asked me if I was okay. Evidently they noticed the watery, red puffiness in my eyes.
I said, “Sure…allergies.” They nodded like they understood because everyone in the Midwest has allergies. What I should have said, if I had been totally honest, was “Allergies…caused by the pollen of the Holy Spirit.”
I pray that the Holy Spirit dusts us all with His pollen today.