This is a memory from almost ten years ago.
I glanced at the time and accelerated a bit. Before leaving my mother’s house two hours earlier, I’d looked online for the worship time at this church that was on my route home; I didn’t want to be late.
I pulled into the lot with five minutes to spare. I grabbed my purse and Bible and headed inside. A nice man greeted me at the door and told me the adult class met in the auditorium. I paused. Before I could ask, I realized my mistake: I’d driven from the Central Standard Time Zone into the Eastern Standard Time Zone. I was there an hour early!
I debated about what to do as I took my seat near the rear of the class. I had to be home in time for an evening event, but staying another hour would not affect that. I considered going to my car for that time, but that seemed a little silly when I could be in a Bible class. I decided I’d sit there and read my Bible and listen for some insight from the man’s lesson.
I only half-listened to the man drone on, and then something he said penetrated my thoughts. Did he say what I thought he said? Surely he didn’t say, “The only way the Holy Spirit speaks to us today is through the Bible.” But he did. In fact, he repeated it.
Several were nodding their heads in agreement, so I started talking to myself: This is not your battle. This is not your church. Each church can interpret the Bible the way they see best. That’s what autonomy is all about. Not my church. Not my battle. I will keep quiet. I will keep quiet.
My hand shot up. No! I moaned inwardly. I hadn’t even thought out what to say. I wasn’t going to speak. But everyone was looking at me, so of course I did.
“I believe the Scriptures teach that we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized and he guides our thoughts and actions if we are attuned to him.” There. Concise. Now I can shut up.
“You are incorrect,” the teacher said. “We only receive the Holy Spirit through what he instructed men to write in the Bible.” End of discussion. They moved on. I had shut up—and been shut down.
I was seething. Should I stay? Could I actually worship with these people?
“Of course you can,” came the answer, audible only to me. The Holy Spirit prompted me to settle down and accept a broader view of the matter.
I know I can worship God without agreeing on every single thing with people who are worshiping with me. It’s that way wherever we go, home or away. So I stayed. The singing was fabulous and the sermon thought-provoking in a good way.
As I was leaving, a woman timidly approached me. “Could I talk with you a minute?” she asked. We went to a private corner.
“I just want to thank you for what you said in class,” she said. “I feel like the Spirit guides me in so many ways and speaks to me when I need Him. It’s just so good to know someone else in the Church of Christ believes that.”
“Oh, many of us do!” I exclaimed, hugging her. “I imagine there are others here who do, but they just don’t feel comfortable speaking up. Was that an elder teaching the class?” She nodded. “Then it may take a while, since the leadership takes such a firm stand on this. But you’ll see. Surely you will find others who accept the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
She finally smiled. “I just wanted to thank you.”
I floated to the car. I hadn’t done the wrong thing at all. In fact, in defending the Holy Spirit I’d also followed his guidance. That dear woman needed reassurance and received it from my one simple comment.
“Thank you, Lord!” I kept praying as I traveled. “Thank you for making me your instrument, even when I did not want to be. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for your constant guidance. Help me always to follow your leading.”