The Wind and the Spirit

By Karen A. Bellenir

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 ESV*)


The Greek word translated "wind" at the beginning of this verse is pneumatos. It is the same word translated as "Spirit" at its end. This overlapping and parallel usage draws attention to the circumstances in which the physical wind in nature can serve as a metaphor for the transcendent ways of the Spirit.

The wind comes in many forms. The first warm breeze of spring. A playful waft that holds a kite aloft. A cool, refreshing breath that stirs the stillness of a hot day. A gust that fills a sail and keeps a sailor from languishing. But it can also be overpowering. A gale that threatens ships and shores. A tornado that uproots trees and homes. A driving squall with blinding rain.

So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

When I think about my own desire for a life characterized by a connection with the Spirit of God, I typically hope for soft, gentle kinds of spiritual expressions. I want to feel quiet reassurances that bring soothing refreshment. I want to experience the joy of being buoyed along by a supernatural, sustaining strength. I want to have a thriving connection with God and a sense of purpose and destination. But the Spirit, like the wind, refuses to be tamed.

Sometimes the Spirit threatens to capsize my boat. Sometimes the Spirit seems determined to tear away the moorings where I feel safe and secure. My soul springs leaks. I lose my grip. Instead of facing uncertainty with faith and good cheer, I feel despair. The Spirit demolishes the artificial structures to which I cling. The Spirit blows to shreds the pride that has roots so deeply planted in my heart. The Spirit peels off my veneer, and I stand, exposed, before God.

But not every storm that blows through my life symbolizes God's presence. When the prophet Elijah was hiding in the mountains, God caused a powerful wind to blow, and the scriptural text reports that in that instance "The Lord was not in the wind" (1 Kings 19:11). Nevertheless, in the face of every storm, it is God's command that I look to the Spirit for the strength to steer the small vessel of my life and that I listen carefully for God's instruction.

The physical wind speaks with many voices. The wind plays a soft, rustling tune when it blows through the trees. It can whistle or howl on lonely, rain-drenched nights. It sighs across unmown fields. And as it passes on its way, the wind sculpts rocks, arranges dunes, and paints the sky with clouds.

The wind of the Spirit touches the strings of my heart. Sometimes it moans with a longing too deep for words. Sometimes it cries in anguish over injustice, and sometimes it sings in awe at the wonders of God. It is the energy that molds me and the sustaining power that gives me life.

Because of its gentle constancy, and sometimes as a result of its tumult, I am sculpted when I stand in the wind of the Spirit.

Image credit: Milkweed seeds blown by wind. (Photo by Ryan Hagerty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014)

*The scripture quotation is from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Observations: A Pier Press® Newsletter. If you're not already a subscriber, click here to sign up. It's Free!