I’ve been thinking about fire and wind this spring. After all, if you live in Kansas, you must think about these things. The fires of the early spring were devastating and harmful. The winds swept the embers for miles and miles destroying most everything in their path. Some human lives were lost. Animals died. Buildings and homes were left in ruins. Volunteers and firefighters worked long hours. The powerful connection between fire and wind was evident and ominous.
Yet the biblical text for Pentecost from Acts 2 paints an entirely different picture of wind and fire — not harmful and deadly but empowering and amazing. From the text, we learn that travelers or pilgrims were gathered in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven.” While we may doubt if that was literal, it is instructive to note that people were from different nationalities, languages, countries and skin-color. This diversity was common especially at religious holidays and observances like Pentecost 50 days after Easter. They were together.
They were joined in spirit when the wind picked up and the fire (or something like it) appeared and landed on each of them. The result? Death? Violence? The text does not record harm but, miraculously, it does record people started speaking to each other. They communicated in their own languages.
It took a leader, a disciple named Peter, to explain this event as the Holy Spirit acting to inspire men and women to dream dreams and share visions. It was good news when wind and fire combined in this ancient text.
I wonder if that is how it feels to be struggling with mental illness. “I can’t think straight.” “I can’t get my breath—and I need air when I panic.” “My brain is on fire! I hurt all over!” “Why doesn’t someone stop this pain and misery?” That’s when the healing therapies, medications and support wrestle the wind and fire into hope and possibilities. When the wind of new ideas and the fire of encouragement are combined, healing happens. It’s amazing. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard work. It’s tender stuff.
Continue the hope by combining the wind of care and fire of compassion. Together they heal.
Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired pastor and denominational minister for Mennonite Church USA. She lives in Newton and is a former Prairie View Board of Directors member.