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Do you remember?

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This one is for those who have fallen away from a charismatic faith.

Do you remember the days?

The days the Holy Spirit was an intimate force in your life that spoke to you. Sometimes it whispered for you to approach a stranger and bless them with a few dollars. Other times it quietly, but firmly asked you to turn off the TV and intercede for someone you know.

The days the presence of Jesus felt so strong during worship, you could almost taste him.

The days you saw breakthrough, or the release of spiritual bondage. The days you put demons in their place with your heaven-quaking spiritual language.

The days you believed with all your heart that with faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains.

Those were the days, weren’t they?

Oh, but they came with a price.

They were the days you lived in constant fear of grieving the Holy Spirit. You needed to do everything that voice said, lest you fall away from God.

They were the days you lived for those euphoric moments with Jesus, those emotional connections with the divine. You chased after them while your other friends were getting drunk and high. You were addicted to spiritual experiences – the tingly feelings of the Lord’s presence, and cathartic sobs at the altar. All those spiritual breakthroughs and tingly feelings and cathartic sobs got exhausting after awhile.

You remember the price. You get worked up talking about it. You know how damaged this kind of theology left you, and you’re still working through all the junk. The rest of your life may be a process of undoing what was done during those Holy Ghost years.

Yet lately, out of nowhere, you have this kind of longing for those days. It’s probably just nostalgia popping up out of nowhere to gloss over the sickness of those years and paint them as romantic, as nostalgia always loves to do.

Or is it a little more than that? Nostalgia is at play, you’re sure, but is it something else? Your old charismatic friends would tell you it’s the Holy Spirit prodding you back into the fold.

You know you can never go back.

So what, then? Do you keep talking about the damage and denying the way you used to know God? There was a time you could explain almost all of it away as emotionalism, brainwashing, and psychological plays by those in control. You thought by now you would be able to explain all of it away and 100 percent reject it with a clear conscience. That was the plan.

But that tiny bit is still there, pulling at you, and you are beginning to wonder why.

Don’t run back into the arms of your old dysfunctional faith because of that one stubborn piece, whatever it is for you. But don’t try to dig it out, tear it apart, and dispose of it either. Just let it be. Answers will come when they come, or maybe they never will. In the meantime, just breath deep in the grace with the rest of us who have fallen away.

Those were the days. Oh, but they came with a price. Do you remember?

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26 Comments

  1. Culturalsavage on June 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Love you talking about/processing this out loud. I do remember those times, those days. I also remember the price, the danger. I like what you said “answers will come…” I am waiting on them. Waiting on Him.

  2. Travis Klassen on June 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Carly this captures all of the feelings I have as a former worship leader. Thank-you.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 16, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Feeling nostalgic even as you work through the junk it left with you? Seems like there’s a number of us in this place.

  3. Carol Vinson on June 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    OMG. I could write these very words. The longing, yes. Wanting to go back, yes, but knowing I can’t. Wanting healing but can’t seem to unpack the never-ending baggage to be able to let go. And yes, waiting for answers…

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      So I’m not the only one who has the longing even in the midst of all the damage, anger, confusion it left me! Thanks, Carol.

  4. homehandymum on June 17, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Hi, fellow-traveller. I just wanted to write a blessing for you. A blessing for the waiting, and the wondering, and the slowly feeling your way.

    I’ve walked a similar path, but some years ago.

    Be at peace and know that God is here, too. This is a big, big world where you can walk out of Pentecostalism and into a faith that embraces the not-knowing, the grey spaces, the “i have no answers anymore”.

    And maybe one day you’ll be able to be there, and still hear the Holy Spirit nudge you about someone who needs some money, or respond to an urge to pray, and it will come gently, as an invitation – without any of the baggage of the past. The legalism, the hurt, the forcing yourself to twist and squish into the right shaped hole. The hoops and requirements that were both put upon us, and which we put upon ourselves. Or maybe not. Who knows? It has been true for me, but we all walk our own paths.

    In our Anglican prayer book is the prayer/poem Song to the Holy Spirit written by a New Zealand poet, James K Baxter, which opens with the verse “Lord, Holy Spirit, You blow like the wind in a thousand paddocks, Inside and outside the fences, You blow where you wish to blow.”

    You don’t have to go back inside those fences for the Spirit to breathe. Rest, wait, and recover. And be at peace.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 17, 2014 at 11:18 am

      I don’t know who you are but you have touched me.
      “You blow like the wind in a thousand paddocks, Inside and outside the fences.” … Thank you.

  5. LizBR on June 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Lovely, Carly.

  6. Caris Adel on June 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Gosh, yes. Exactly it.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 17, 2014 at 11:20 am

      Thank you, Caris. I didn’t realize so many of us are undoing the Holy Ghost years.

  7. Kasey Rae on June 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I think what you have to say about the nature of nostalgia is very perceptive– how we romanticize things in hindsight, often ignoring or forgetting the negative (but actual) reasons those things are gone now. It is a good reminder for me to remain in the present.

    To your main point i would say: There is a true peace and security when we rest in the clear promises of God in the Scriptures. He has revealed so much to us there– all we need for life, godliness, and healing. We need not stray into unknown realms of unfounded euphoria and supposed divine confirmations when we can be certain that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” knowing that “the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The walk of the Christian is one of action, and our assurance as to what that should look like could not be more clear or filled with more hope. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      There is peace and security when we rest in God’s promises. I feel like I am finally learning that THAT is enough. I don’t need the euphoria and the divine confirmations, even though for so long I based my faith off them. Thanks, Kasey.

  8. Kathryn Thomas on June 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks Carly! You have an amazing way of writing so eloquently exactly what I am thinking. I never belonged to a charismatic church, nor have I felt damaged or wounded by the church. But I know that I cannot go back to that same child like faith I once had and that makes me sad. How do we separate the nostalgia for a simpler certain truth from a nagging desire to pursue a genuine but uncertain faith? A faith so fraught with questions their is little room for belief.

    It is nice to know their are so many on the same journey! Please keep writing!

  9. Julie Canudo on June 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    “They were the days you lived for those euphoric moments with Jesus, those emotional connections with the divine.” Oh yes. I remember my winter youth group retreats, mexico missions trips & ATC (acquire the fire). It was so hyped. Today I enjoy finding the Divine in nature/His creation…the unnoticed moments.

  10. Kelly Stanley on June 28, 2014 at 8:12 am

    This is BEAUTIFUL. I think you have captured the way so many feel. I’m in kind of a weird place — I entered a church like that as an adult (in my mid-30s) rather than growing up in it. And because I’m a questioner by nature, I’ve resisted a lot of the things that those raised in this tradition have carried with them and struggled with. It’s not that I don’t see the issues, because I do. And it’s not that I don’t struggle, because I certainly do. I guess I try to be that voice within my small church that calls out and challenges many of the things that likely will end up damaging people like you describe. I have no idea if anyone really listens or if it will do any good, but there are parts I love enough that I’m holding on.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why that kind of passion and intensity is so hard (impossible?) to sustain. How do you hold onto it? I think you’re absolutely right on target when you say don’t fight it and don’t try to tear it apart and dispose of it. I hold on to the belief that my way won’t look like yours or like the next person’s. We each have to find our own faith, and it may be cobbled together from a bunch of different traditions. And that’s OK.

    I can’t wait to read more of your writing. Thanks for sharing this on Addie Zierman’s blog.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Sometimes I feel like the passion (for me) was this elusive force that I had no control over catching – and later, losing. It’s probably not true, but it’s a sense I get sometimes.
      Way to be that one voice. If I had just one voice from those days, I might not have had to go down the way I did. Keep up the hard work.

  11. Annie on June 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Wow. Beautiful. I still can’t raise my hands while singing at church….. Too many weird strings attached for me. And yet, I wish I could be as free as I used to. Growth and change and shifting is hard – thanks for this reminder that we build on our past without completely leaving it.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 29, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Thank you. I absolutely get what you mean about not raising your hands at church. It’s such an awkward, but GOOD place to be. Thanks for processing with me.

      • Sharon Arnold on June 30, 2014 at 5:27 am

        … also visiting via Addie… I so ‘get’ this post, and Annie’s comment in particular too. thanks.

  12. Amanda on June 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Visiting via Addie Zierman–great post! We all tend to have some church baggage that we have a hard time leaving behind.

    • Carly Gelsinger on June 29, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks Amanda, I’m thankful for Addie for connecting us.

  13. Lily on July 2, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Found you from Addie’s site and I relate to this so, so well. I grew up in a charismatic church, went to Wheaton College where I found this whole new intellectual side of faith, became resentful of the misinformation and bad theology of my youth and swung hard the other way – almost coming to scorn any type of emotional engagement with faith. But then, a few years later, it started creeping back in – that deep desire to FEEL that kind of connection again. Frustration with how cynical I had become about the possibility of the Holy Spirit still moving me. I haven’t figured it out, but in the past few years I’ve been striving to find something in between – a heart that is soft and open to being emotionally engaged with my faith, but a mind that is fully active in it as well. I can’t go back and I don’t really want to go back. But like you said, I don’t think I can ignore it completely and still move forward.

  14. Addie Zierman on August 4, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Beautiful. Though my church experience was more evangelical, the youth organizations I was part of in those days were much more charismatic. I remember all of it…and its cost. Thanks so much for sharing these honest, complex memories.

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