“And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way…” – Acts 20:22 (NRSV)
The Holy Spirit is supposed to be the breezy one. The creative, tongues-of-flame one. The light, breathy, flighty one. The Advocate. The Comforter.
Paul pokes a hole in all that airy-fairiness by adding one more name for the Spirit: Captor.
It doesn’t compute, somehow. An angry, father-in-the-sky kind of god, sure; you could imagine him holding people captive through fear and threats. But our blowsy, easy-breezy Spirit? It just seems so out of character.
If when you hear words like “captive” and “captor,” you picture misery, domination, violence, and fear, there’s good reason. There’s been all too much of that sort of captive-taking in our history. Plenty in our religion, too, and in our personal lives. If you shrink from the metaphor, you’ve been paying attention.
And yet, there are other ways to capture one another, aren’t there? Ways both delightful and edifying? Ways without violence and without coercion? Lovers take each other captive with their loveliness. Children take their parents captive with their naked need. Friends take each other captive with their sympathy. Hearts can be given away. Freedom, too.
When it’s about invitations, not orders; choices, not ultimatums; promises, not threats; longing, not coercion, when you choose to tie the tie that binds onto yourself, and when the one you bind yourself to is worthy?
That’s not bondage; it’s love.
You aren’t captured; you’re captivated.
You’re not imprisoned; you’re about to learn what freedom really is.
Spirit, Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, you are utterly captivating. I’m yours. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.