I’m Not So Sure I Want to Know the Holy Spirit

I don’t think I really want to know the Holy Spirit.

At least, not at this point in my immature life.

I heard a guy talking today about people who spent time praying and asking for the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them. It was really neat listening to this man talks about these other people’s experiences. Nothing flashy, nothing wild. The crux was that each of these dudes spent time asking for a deeper understanding or experience with the Holy Spirit, they each got what they asked for, though none of the details of their experiences were shared. The take away for this man was that every one of those people lived radically different lives afterward.

After the conversation, I thought, “I want to do that. I want to do what these men have done and have a radically different life.”

Then I thought about the stories I have heard. Jacob had a great experience with the Holy Spirit and walked with a limp forever afterward. Paul had a major experience with the Holy Spirit and it left him blind for several days. John had an experience with the Holy Spirit and it left him sick to his stomach.

I think I’ve grown so comfortable in my life that I don’t give much thought to the Holy Spirit. I live in a reasonable, tangible, real world. As I wander through this concept, I wonder if my comfortable life has separated me from being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

And that is where the first line of this comes from. If truly knowing, understanding deeply, connecting with the Holy Spirit results in shaking of life, a shuddering of reality, a limp, blindness, a bitter stomach, anything other than what I have now or what I want later, I don’t know If I am yet ready to know the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if I’m really ready to sacrifice the good that I have in order to move into the greatness of what God has determined for me.

I want to have an experience like these other men. I want to live a life that is radically different. But at the same time, I want to live the same life I am living now.

I guess the real question is what do I consider to be the ideal life. Is it the same that I have now? Is it radically different? To loosely quote Jim Elliot Am I willing to give what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose?

And more to the point…

Do I really want to know the Holy Spirit?

My Kids Are More Mature Than Me

I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough.  I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard.  As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,


“You are a better man than me”


I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true.  These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.

My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me.  I hope they stay that way.


Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders.  As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country.  I’m not upset about that.  Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years.  Herein lies the problem.  Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years.  The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.

Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in?  It is hard stuff to say the least.

I knew I needed to tell my kids.  It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on.  We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.

I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here.  Neither of them cried.  They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad.  I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me.  Again, no great emotion came out of them.  I asked them,


“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”


Daughter – We are sad…

Son –  Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not

Daughter – … but we can trust God


Whose kids are these?

Surely not mine!  Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders.  Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome.  Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.

My kids are more mature than I am.

This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.

The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship.  The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”.  Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”.  I believe this to be true.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am.  This is one of those moments.

I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years.  This is what I am doing right now.  It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time.  Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure…  But all the time?  Do I really believe that?  My thoughts and feelings right now say no.

Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages.  I know what the right answer is… and that is the point.  I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.

Here are the hard questions in my heart.   If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that?  Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them?  Where is His goodness in this?  For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind?  Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?

I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son?  In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness.  With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind.  In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.

On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure.  But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death.  I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.

I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for.  Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.

I want my family to go with me.  I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.

I fear that my family will not be able to join me.

And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…


God is good

                    All the time

All the time

                  God is Good

She doesn’t hold it against you…

It’s not your fault Matt.  The blame for how my life has turned out does not rest upon your shoulders. I can think of nothing for which to blame you.

If you did anything at all, it was provide an open door for my escape.  For my testing.  For me to respond to a visceral call to manhood.  For that, I am grateful.

This came at a price.  I know that you saw some things change in me.  I know you saw the raging anger and the bitter cold that took up residence in my heart.  You are correct.  I did get that in Ramadi.  I lost my ability to control the pain of my past and hide the brokenness from the rest of the world, and I took on a lot of things that turned cancerous to my soul.  You have no part in contributing to this brokenness.

I appreciate the phone call you made.  I wanted to belong for a long time and my heart was crying out during that time of my life to feel like I was wild and dangerous and free.  I was working in a warehouse in a tiny medical clinic in Key West.  Nothing wild.  Nothing dangerous.  Not free.  Caged, contained, pacified.  Not challenged.  Not encouraged to concquer.

Your phone call inviting me to return to Camp Lejeune could not have come at a more opportune time.

Jessica knew there were some ugly spots in me.  She had already experienced some of the poison that I had to offer her.  The things you saw change in our marriage after my deployment were not completely new or fully unexpected.  There were storm clouds on the horizon from the moment we said our vows.

While I did sustain some deep wounds from that deployment, you did not give them to me.  You did not make me deploy.  You did not make me act the way I acted, or respond to the circumstances I was in in the manner which I responded.  You simply made the phone call.  I filled out the paperwork.  I moved my family.  I tried so hard to earn the respect of my platoon and fully integrate into one of the teams.

I do not know if you still feel as though the hard things that Jessica experienced because of the negative change in me is your fault.  She holds you responsible for nothing.  Again, she doesn’t hold anything against you.  My wife loves you like she loves my little brother.  She cares about you and honors our relationship deeply.

Not all of those bad days resulted in unmitigated floods and storm damage in my life either.  That time of my life can easily be called a blizzard of blizzards.  Ice cold, raging, furious, and violent.  Over time the snow has laid quietly in my life while I tried to figure out what do with it.  Because of the good counsel and the encouragement I have gotten from several men in my life, spring has returned.  Now that the storm has passed the snow has melted and nourished the roots of some really amazing things.  My character has developed really well.  I understand my identity, purpose, and values now because of some of the work I had to do to mitigate the damage from the blizzard.

I know what the winter is like now and I can appreciate the spring that much more.

Thanks so much for calling me that day.  It was one of those unexpected moments, walking around in a grocery store, and I get a phone call that ended up changing my life.

Thank you so much for that fateful phone call.

Jessica holds nothing against you brother…

… and I am so very thankful that you made the call.


The Baker and The Flour

“I cannot complain about the flour… or the early mornings”

That was what she said.  That is what set me free to pursue the things I enjoy and feel led to do.  But did she mean it?  There is no way she did because she had no idea what she was talking about… but she said it all the same.

We were riding through Key West at the time and I was trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I was set to get out of the Navy within the year and I was really torn between going to college, becoming a cop, or trying out for SARC, Special Amphibious Recon Corpsman.  I knew that I should involve my wife in this decision making process.

As we sat riding in the Jeep, we talked about my desires for the future.  I would talk about being a cop and then tell her that I wanted to steer away from that.  My dad was a cop for as long as I can remember.  I remember how it felt to be a kid and have my dad gone so often with the strange hours and rotating schedule of a Police Officer.  I remember watching my mom’s face when she would get the phone call saying daddy would not be coming home because he was standing on the side of the road taking care of a traffic accident.  I remember what it felt like to know that my dad had arrested the brothers and fathers of some of the kids in my class and that I had to watch out for the retaliation against my dad that might be served to him through my broken body.  It was a rough life and I did not want that for my family.

I mostly did not want that for my wife.  My mom spent a lot of time raising us kids by herself.  My dad would ask her how we were and he would tell her what he would like for her to do with us, but my mom was really the active one in raising us.  I did not want my wife to be that “single” parent because I was gone so often.

When I shared these ideas with her, she responded by talking about a baker.  She said,

“You are not the man that you are because of the job that you do, you do the job that you do because of the man that you are.”

That took a long time to sink in.  She continued by explaining that she could not marry a man who enjoys the early morning, serving breakfast, and exercising his creative spirit through baking, and then complain about the early mornings, the smell of pastries, and all the dirty aprons.  If she marries a baker, she has to put up with the baking.

It still took a little while for my identity to be refined and for me to understand what that meant.  As I started thinking through these things, I started to question my motives for choosing my future job.  What it boiled down to was pretty simple.  I wanted a job where I would be required to think under stressful conditions, use my body to bring about the desired results of a task at hand, and to serve people in a manner in which they were not able to serve themselves.  I wanted to protect, defend, and serve.  I wanted to think, strategize, and make things happen.  There does not seem to be many jobs that put such a high emphasis on intelligence, “outside of the box thinking”, and physical prowess and stamina.  That kind of ruled college out.  It also set Recon above getting out to be a cop.

But I was afraid that Jessica did not fully comprehend what she was asking.  In my extensive wisdom, I made her watch Black Hawk Down and then go talk to some of the wives of the instructors at the Army’s dive school on Flemming Key.  She spent a few days in a very somber mood.  When we continued the conversation, she confirmed what she had said before.

I started looking for a bakery.

We lost everything we owned to Hurricane Wilma.  While walking around a grocery store making a list of the food items we lost for the insurance claim I got a call from a friend of mine.  He was a part of 3/8 (Third battalion, Eighth marine regiment, pronounced Three Eight) and they were deploying to Ramadi.  He said the platoon sergeant had requested 2 Corpsmen for the deployment, and that the battalion wanted to support this decision, but had already assigned their other stellar performers to other sections.  He asked if I wanted to go to Ramadi with 3/8 Scout Sniper Platoon.

I hung up the phone and talked to Jessica.  The next day I started the paperwork and within 2 months had all the signatures I needed to move back to Camp Lejeune.

Right after Christmas 2005 I slid into the platoon.

I’ve been baking ever since.

Thanks Sweetie for recognizing what it meant to marry a man like me, embracing the difficulties and making the sacrifices required of you, and for not ever complaining about duty days and deployments.