The team of healers stands up around the altar waiting for the line of faithful to approach them, and they are Betty Homemaker, Sue Teacher, Jack Plumber, Mike Lawyer. As I stand up at the altar with Sue Teacher’s hands on my head, why not entertain, just for a moment, the belief that the Spirit has animated her heart, mind and hands and is permeating into my body, making my thighs and calves feel jittery, causing me to tighten my shoulders and close my eyes. It is filling my body with hot coffee, pouring it in from the toes, up to the top of my head, capping me in warm foam, sending a delightful jitter into all my nerves. I am not just a person who drinks the drink anymore. I am the vessel in which the drink is poured and I contain all the caffeinated, alcoholic stimulants in the world without ever taking a sip. Who would not want to avail themselves of this feeling? Why aren’t all the bored teenagers and lusty old men of the world lining up for this high? Why not roll over towards my husband in bed with me and say, “Hey, feel like getting slain in the Spirit tonight?” If he had felt what I just felt, he would not say no.My family was involved in a Charismatic community when I was a teenager, and so I attended myriad healing masses and conferences and Life in the Spirit retreats. I found that I was unable to shut down my internal editor enough to stop analyzing my every little response. Was this the Spirit? Was that the Spirit? How do I differentiate between the Spirit and goosebumps or the warmth of comforting hand on my back? And what relief to finally stop resisting the earnest prayers and defying the waiting arms and the entreaties to just be more open, and drop into the eager solid arms. People who rail against peer pressure in schools have never been prayed over at a Charismatic meeting.
I want the Charismatic experience to be authentic. I long for some psychic subrealm that allows unselfconscious and physical communication between God and me. And if this communication can be won with third party intervention, this intermediary laying-on-of-hands, rather than by my own concentration and spiritual discipline, all the better.
Yet, I remain a skeptic. I held my ground. I did not fall down. Is the warmth of someone’s hands on my head enough to give me chills? Is the intimacy of this little woman whispering in my ear, “Come back to me, My Child,” enough to bring tears to my eyes?
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