I've been thinking a lot about Jesus's description of the Spirit's activity when he was talking to Nicodemus. I keep going back to that word picture of the wind, blowing wherever it pleases. We can see its evidence, but we can't predict where it's going or what it's going to look like when it gets there.
I've been thinking a lot about that in the context of praying for my friends. I think that praying for the Spirit to intersect their lives is immensely important.
But the question is, will I recognize the Spirit's movement when it happens?
I wrote here about praying that God would bless people. I still think that this is important. But a friend of mine recently challenged me with the idea of praying for people to be discontented, or praying that people will actually see and understand their brokenness--often this can only happen with painful experiences.
I don't like pain. I don't like the idea of praying that people will be discontented or unhappy with themselves or with their lives. I don't like the idea that suffering has a place and that sometimes it's exactly what we need in life to make us go deeper with ourselves and with God.
But when I look at my own life, I have to admit that I am who I am because of the difficult times. I am who I am because God has been with me through those times, but also because those painful times carve out places in my heart and soul that would otherwise be hardened and unreachable.
I want to pray God's blessing on my friends. I want to pray for God's blessing of spiritual life, above all. But I think I have to remember that the path to abundant life is always death. Jesus's first, of course, making life possible. But then the death of self-surrender. That has been a painful death for me, and it continues to be as I daily struggle to lay down my life, my desires, my hopes, my dreams. But it's also a beautiful thing. And the life that comes from it is always worth the painful process to get there.
So tonight, my dear friends, I'm praying that in your pain and your discontent--in the place where you are right now--the Spirit will be blowing and stirring a craving for spiritual life that can only come through death.