“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”. – Jesus (John 3:8 NIV)
In the world of cycling, even for an amateur like myself, you soon learn that the wind is both your friend and foe – maybe even on the same ride. Spring rides have a way of reminding you of this truth. On a recent ride, going east to west, I looked down to see the speedometer hit 30 mph (with the aid of both a tail wind and downhill path), but coming back (west to east) I had a hard time mustering 10 to 12 mph against the head wind and that same hill. On that particular ride the wind was my friend and my foe.
I’ve also learned that wind is rather fickle. It can come at you from all directions.I always try and check both my weather app and the neighborhood flags early in a ride to judge the velocity and direction of the wind. Routes can be adjusted accordingly if one thinks through the conditions – for example, always better to come home with a tailwind. But sometimes you begin a ride thinking the wind is coming from one direction, only to discover it seems to be coming from all directions. Headwinds yield to crosswinds and prevailing winds become wind gusts. North shifts to northeast or south to southwest. Before you know it your out in a gale wishing your bike had a sail.
Given the number of words we use to describe the wind, it’s no wonder we find it something to talk about. We can refer to someone as “windy” when they talk a lot, and we can say our day has been a “whirlwind” when we’ve been overly busy. We might describe a task or project we’ve completed as a “breeze”, and refer to the neighbor child as a “tempest” or “tornado”. And we all know persons who sort of “blow” in with gusto, while others just waft along like a “zephyr” (i.e. a gentle, mild breeze) – just had to throw that cool wind word in there.
Is it any wonder that wind, and wind words, are often used to speak of our spiritual life? In particular the Spirit, as in the Holy Spirit, is that member of the Trinity most often given to wind-like expression. The Greek word “pnuema” from which we get the word “spirit” means “breath” or “wind”. In John 20:22 as Jesus appears to his disciples, post-resurrection, it says “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. Doesn’t that send chills down your neck?
In Acts 2:2, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes in the “sound of a mighty rushing wind”. In Genesis 1:2 we are given a picture of the Spirit of God “hovering over the waters” – doesn’t that make you think of wind? In fact the NRSV says it this way: “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters”.
So often when God is moving there is wind involved. Just ask the Hebrews of the Exodus (“The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night” Ex 14:21); or Elijah (“Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord . . and there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.” – I Kgs 19:11); or Jesus’ disciples (“He woke up and rebuked the wind . . . and there was a dead calm” – Mark 4:38-39).
I think of these things as I both struggle against the wind and benefit by its blowing. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes said, “all is vanity and a chasing after the wind” (Eccl 1:14). Perhaps he was Bob Dylan’s inspiration: “the answer . . . . is blowin’ in the wind”.