One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life happened when I was a little girl, skiing. My father and I had gone to the top of the mountain. The chairlift carried us soaring over the trails, over the trees, up to the height where the trees became stunted, twisted, ice-coated, shrubs out of fairyland, until finally we arrived a the top, a bare expanse of snow above the tree-line. My father turned and began to go down the slope, crossing a broad open area. I tried to follow him, but the wind was blowing in our faces, and it was so strong that I could not descend the slope; the mass of my small body was not sufficient to propel me down. As I stood there in wonder and frustration, the wind actually started to push me back up the hill. I could only laugh and stay there (freezing) until the wind shifted direction.
I think of that time often when I go on retreat. The place I like to go, Emery House, is located on the banks of the Merrimack River, and there is a path that wends along the bank of the river, and a point where the land juts out and the wind comes soaring in, and always I find my feet turning me toward the very tip of that land, where the wind comes surging past and I raise my arms and face into it and feel that I am being washed clean: clean of sin, clean of weakness, clean of grief, renewed and ready to take on whatever comes.
At the very beginning of creation, God bent over the formless void and breathed God’s spirit upon it. That word, “breathe” is ruach: spirit and breath, and so Christians have come to associate the Spirit of God with a mighty wind, like the one that tore through the Temple on Pentecost, set beards and hats to flying, and hovered over the disciples as flames of fire and wonder.
If you’ve ever been in a strong wind, you will know there is only one thing to do: lean into it. Let it carry you, even. If you try to hide from it, shelter yourself from it, you will only be knocked down. The wind itself will hold you up, if you allow let it.
Where do you feel the Spirit in your life? Where is it pushing you in new directions? Listen to it. Pay attention. If you lean in, if you meet it where it is, you are assured of a wild ride. But if you do not, the Spirit may pass you by and make someone else alive. For the wind of God blows through each of us, but it does not blow forever. The time to respond is now.