Many years ago, when I was a boy on the cusp of my teenage years, I was in an F-3 tornado. It was on a warm, humid late summer-early fall afternoon shortly after school let out for the day. With a few other students I hung around after school because my mother was attending a meeting. About a half an hour later the sky began to darken as thunderheads rolled in from the northwest and the temperature dropped. A welcomed breeze carried the salty refreshing smell of a summer rain. Large drops soon fell lazily from the sky, then, just as suddenly, they turned into pellets of hail as the winds picked up. Suddenly, without warning, what was a summer thunderstorm turned into a violent swirling wind. I did not hear the deafening train-like roar that is often used to describe tornados. I didn’t hear anything at all but instinct took over as I ran down a hallway dragging a smaller boy by the hand. I later learned that the silence I experienced was due to the tornado’s vacuum effect as it touched down near me.
Within a matter of seconds, the tornado passed but not before destroying my elementary school and a few nearby homes. It’s destruction was precise and life-changing. The school was rebuilt, bigger and better than before. So were the homes. But for close to two decades afterward my heart would skip a beat or two whenever a late summer thunderstorm would roll in.
I think of that afternoon whenever I read the story of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the disciples at Pentecost. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind” the writer said. Touched by the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were forever changed. Previously fearful, they were emboldened. They left the safety of the place where they huddled and charged into the world proclaiming the life changing message of God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ.
The life changing power of the Holy Spirit continues to descend upon us “like a violent wind” bringing new life and new possibilities as old structures and ways of doing things are changed, transformed, and remodeled into the likeness of the Kingdom of God. Individuals are also changed; “reborn” from the likeness of the “old Adam” into the image of Christ living into our “adoption” of children of God and heirs of the Kingdom. This transformation is a glimpse of grace.