I remember the rain.
I was sitting alone on the front porch of a Midwestern farmhouse. It was early in the evening as the sun went down. Clouds had formed overhead, grey and ominous, but they had not yet blocked lingering rays of sunlight filtering through the leaves of the tall oak trees.
I could hear softly, faintly off in the distance drops were beginning to fall. A clap of thunder sounded. I squinted my eyes in attempt to see as the pattering grew from whispers to audible beats.
The rain approached. Like an advancing percussion ensemble, it marched down nature’s corridor growing ever louder and louder. I stood up and listened.
Tat-a-tat-tat. Tat-a-tat-tat. Tat-a-tat-tat.
I remember the wind.
It came suddenly. Blowing violently through the clover-infested field out beyond the fence. Its invisible gusts made elm branches, maples, willows dance this way and that to the expanding storm’s musical caper.
The wind’s buffeting began to rattle and shake the shutters on the window behind me like castanets, maracas. My hair blew in my face. Wild, powerful, uncontrollable.
Whoosh. Tat-a-tat-tat. Shake. Shake.
Whoosh. Tat-a-tat-tat. Tat-a-tat-tat. Shake. Shake. Shake.
I listened acutely to the cadence as a sense of anticipation, of glorious expectation came over me. Expectancy of rain, yes. But also of refreshment, of creation poured out, of the Spirit of the Creator Himself on His way.
I stepped off the porch and strained again to see. Rain was definitely coming. Now I could see it drumming, striking the foliage, parading through the field, over the pond, across the tin roof of the barn. Then wham.
There it was.
Drops on the wood fence right in front of me. Rhythmic drops in a vertical line moving step by step across the gravel driveway. Drops falling onto my face.
I breathed it all in as I raised my hands in wet, windy worship.
What a glorious moment that was.
I wish I could tell you.
A moment of real worship. Raw worship. The kind that’s bucket-list worthy. But to this day, describing it always feels like chasing after the wind.
Words just fall flat.
In that moment, I can tell you I stood before our Almighty Creator. I felt on my shoulders the hands of a higher power. Of our Life-Giver, the Maker of Heavens and Earth. I sensed His presence near, witnessed His majesty, His grandeur unfold. And somehow His Spirit blew into my own spirit first with thumping anticipation, then with soaking reality. It blew beyond reason, past logic, deeper than my mortal mind could follow.
Honestly, I’ve been in a hundred rainstorms before that one. I’ve been in a thousand since. But that night, I learned something more about spirituality, about faith. About how unexplainable this spiritual life can seem to those who’ve experienced it. How outrageous, nonsensical it can appear to those who haven’t.
I learned just what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus, “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NIV).
Born of the Spirit.
That’s what we are. What we’re supposed to be.
But to try and define it with words, the experience of it, never truly does it justice.
When Jesus spoke those words to Nicodemus, the man stood before him. This highly educated, religious leader had come at night in secret. No pretense, no performance. He sought sound answers from this strange “people’s rabbi.”
Nicodemus needed rational reprieve from his many brimming questions about the spiritual nature and substance of Jesus’ ministry. He wanted to understand intellectually the how and why of Jesus’ miracles and His profound, unorthodox message of love and forgiveness for even the lowliest of Jews.
For Nicodemus’ sake (and ours too), Jesus answers him by compassionately uttering one of the most eloquent theological orations in all of scripture (see v. 9-21). He explains to Nicodemus the Father’s love, the meaning of salvation, the enduring, fulfilling relationship we can all have—Spirit to spirit—made available through Jesus Himself, God’s one and only Son.
But not before He first acknowledges just how difficult to explain, how hard to pin down in words, how much like the wind the spiritual experience, this being “born of the Spirit,” can seem.
See for yourself.
Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (v. 5-8)
I can imagine as Jesus was speaking these words a westerly wind possibly blew across His face. As He sat down with Nicodemus, a breeze probably shuffled bits of sand along the desert pavement at their feet. Maybe palm branches and acacia leaves danced above their heads.
What hands-on application it would have been to feel the wind in that moment. To sit with God in flesh, with Jesus, and watch Him breathe. To experience how alike the wind is to the Spirit of this man. How similar they speak, they move. How akin they have their being.
And how difficult they are to describe.
After all, the wind and God’s Spirit both are wild. Uncontainable. Irrepressible. They blow “wherever [they] please” whenever they want. And to “hear [their] sound” is to indirectly sense them. To experience them implicitly, tacitly, circuitously through whooshing and rattling. Through the lifting of leaves, grass, shutters, face, heart, hands.
It requires faith to believe.
A faith that concedes to a deeper logic. A faith that accepts a higher reason is at play.
Reason greater than what mortal man can achieve. Reason more than what we can physically dissect and learn, what we can tangibly scrutinize and know, what we can control. And, therefore, more than what we can ultimately explain with words.
Nicodemus got this. As he stood there face to face with God Himself straining to understand, all he could do is ask, “How can this be?” (v. 9).
And that’s all I could do too.
All any of us can do who have encountered God in such ways.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to ask. It’s okay to have no words. It’s okay to chase…to chase the Wind. Because in elusive wafts barely noticeable, His Spirit comes. Or in short afternoon gusts just enough to cool us from the heat of our trying days, He comes.
Until on that rare, coveted occasion God’s Spirit blows wild. Like a mighty gale, He blows so fast and sudden you know His rain has come upon you. Refreshing rain. Soaking soul rain. Healing, soothing, thirst-quenching, spiritually-drenching, downpouring rain.
Then it’s enough to simply raise your hands in wet, windy worship.
It’s enough to chase.
To chase the Wind.
And to keep chasing Him for the rest of your life no matter how hard He is to explain.