A bit over a month ago, PBS released this amazing 4 hour documentary called “The Calling,” which profiled several young men and women of all faiths seeking a life in ministry. Most of the subjects of the documentary were looking at a life of chaplaincy, as that is where they felt their calling was, but nonetheless, I found their stories of value and great interest. (Shameless plug for PBS, people…) At the time this documentary was released, I was still in the process of committing to Princeton Theological Seminary, and still figuring out precisely which program I desired: a Divinity School versus Seminary education. Until even recently, I was not entirely sure what the difference was between the two titles, and at times, I am still not sure whether there is even a difference. Both schools offer an identical Masters of Divinity (M.Div) degree (the degree I am a candidate for beginning in the Fall…), and both seminaries and Div Schools are often affiliated with a specific denomination, meaning that a particular denomination provides a significant amount of financial assistance to the school and to particular students seeking ordination/long-term careers in that branch of Christianity. But one amazing thing this documentary did for me was it showed the high and low points of following my calling that is into ministry. I discussed in an earlier blog entry some of the challenges I expect to face in the upcoming years regarding my desires to become a minister, but this documentary showed them through real people, as opposed to as abstract, worst-case scenarios that they seemed to be. While someone might find them as a turn-off to ministry, I felt as though they armed me for the future – for future situations and problems that I may see in a church setting.
One extremely interesting metaphor used in that documentary is that of the “second wind” in faith. Anyone who has been involved in a physical activity understands the meaning behind this phrase – the body, in its reaction to complete physical exhaustion, releases a surge of endorphins and energy that allows for the body to continue the physical activity a second time. I have felt this particular physical phenomena on numerous occasions myself, and each time am shocked by how it allows me to continue for a short period of time as though I had not been exercising previously. I’m not going to bother to explain how the second wind works, because I’m not writing a sports or medical blog here, but it proves to be an especially interesting metaphor for Christian faith.
The idea of a second wind in faith can be interpreted in two ways. The first is the idea that the first wind, or the initial exercise if you will, was God’s creation of man in His image. This is when faith – first faith for all intents and purposes – began in its original form. Faith continued, but mankind’s dedication waxed and waned throughout time, producing and fostering the existence of temptation, sin and death. And then God sent Jesus down to us. We all know the story, so I’m not going to waste the time or space reiterating the whole story. But what does Jesus have to do with the idea of a second wind? Well, it is possible to see that the second wind was the simple introduction and existence of Jesus into society. When Jesus came, he revolutionized faith – he spread a revolutionary message of faith, hope and love that energized the faithful to embody their beliefs and share them with those around them. This is the second wind – Jesus energized the faith that God set forth in mankind during creation.
The second and slightly more applicable way the second wind can apply to this subject is regarding the every day faith of the average Christian. Throughout my days as a Smith student, I have felt my faith in waves. At some times during my student days, I have felt closer to God than ever, and yet at others, I have felt frustrated and far from God. But even at my most frustrated moments, I knew that God was the only way, and that ultimately, my faith would get me through anything. Eventually, I see a sign from God, or be encouraged by someone, and my faith would shoot back up to where it had been before. A friend of mine told me that it is not uncommon for our faith to be like the sea – it rises and falls like the waves of the tides, but no matter what, it is there all the time. The only thing that changes is our ability to feel and communicate with it. I was glad to hear that I was not failing in my faith, as I had so thought. This feeling would continue for a while, until finally, I would get my second wind. God would send me a message, telling me to do something or befriend someone, and all of a sudden, I would feel God on my shoulder again. My second wind is never the same thing – it could be a great movie with a renewing message, like “Letters to God” or “Facing the Giants” (Both corny and low budget, but sweet Christian Films), or a documentary about someone helping people, or my experience in the San Francisco Bay Area this past summer. Each time, I felt as though my faith had surged, my light shone brighter, if you will…(ala Matthew 5:14-16) Afterward, I felt strong and ready to fight again.
So what is the big deal about the second wind? Only I have experienced low points in my faith, right? Bull! I beg to differ! We have all had moments where we have wondered where God was and why He wasn’t paying attention to us at that very moment! But eventually, we received some sort of inspiration that moved us back toward active belief…or whatever you would select to call it. That’s the second wind in action – it gets us energized to get moving again for God and Jesus. It is what makes us inspired to spread the revolutionary love, hope and promise that the original second wind brought to us 2000 years ago.
At times, my impatience to know what God’s plan for me right this very minute gets the best of me. But God sends a second wind, one that encourages me to keep moving, keep persevering, because eventually, when the moment is right, God will reveal a tiny glimmer of what He has in store for me, and it will be beautiful! So keep going! Keep looking for the next opportunity to seek God and the second wind of faith will come when you get stuck in a spiritual fog or cloud and can’t see which way is up or down.
God’s second wind comes at just the right time, and always when you least expect it! It could come in the form of a bright interaction with a long-lost friend, or a great sermon at church. But regardless of how it comes to you, God’s second wind (in the form of Jesus, of course) is strong and powerful, and lifts you up to where you belong. It is like the second wind I speak of is the arms of Jesus lifting you up off the ground and closer to Him. Its like a hug from God, telling you to keep running, to keep persevering toward following Him.
So keep running…keep seeking, because God is right there, waiting to catch us and give us His SECOND WIND!