Sometimes we can get so focused on the spectacular things that the Holy Spirit does that we miss some of the simpler and normal things He has to offer us. For some, everything becomes about extravagance and normal life ceases to exists. They begin to think that if the Holy Spirit is going to do anything, it’s going to have to be absolutely spectacular.
But that’s not always the case—I might even argue that less extravagant moves of the Spirit are more commonplace than the greater ones. And that’s okay—healthy even. We can’t live our lives entirely on the mountaintop, because then we become unrelatable and unstable. When we live in that kind of world, our faith no longer becomes about God, but about us. We constantly want new highs with greater emotion and deeper meaning—each experience more extravagant than the last. But that’s not how life actually is.
The desire for continual extravagance is part of the reason so many marriages fall apart. Movies and books have been telling us that every princess has a prince who is full of riches, attractiveness and character; and so when our marriages don’t reflect this, we begin to think something is wrong. N.T. Wright has met with couples with this kind of mentality and gives them the following advice:
as I’ve constantly had to say to puzzled young people exploring love, sex and marriage, the excitement of romance is like the excitement of striking a match. It’s sudden, sparky and dramatic—and it doesn’t last long. The question is, What are you going to do with the match once you’ve struck it?
The answer—which has obvious resonances with Christian worship beyond the metaphorical meaning!—is that you will use the match to light a candle. A candle isn’t as exciting as a match, at least to begin with; but it can be far more beautiful, far more evocative, and far more long-lasting. Human couples need to learn that lesson to prevent them from supposing that when the match goes out, something has gone dramatically wrong and they must look for another match to strike as soon as possible.
Many of us have eventually come to recognize this truth in our marriages, but for some reason we remain hesitant of the idea that the same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. “Surely God has nothing but intimacy to offer us with greater and greater depths,” we say. That statement is absolutely true, but for some reason we forget that our relationship with God is just that: A relationship. And like with all relationships, there is give and pull. The people closest to us are not constant dispensaries of extravagant experiences and neither is God.
So in order to figure out who God truly is and how He works, we must give ourselves over to the relationship and its give and pull. We must not simply desire the incredible or we will have turned God into the prosperity gospel that shouts, “Me, me, me!” The true Gospel is about, “Him, Him, Him.” And when you look at the lives of the Christian mystics of old, you begin to realize that the path to extravagant spirituality is by always being about “Him, Him, Him.”