Happy Hunting For The Holy Spirit

by Victoria Benson Schutter

I have an aunt here in Houston who is somewhat eccentric and occasionally difficult. My aunt's brand of religion is what is known as "charismatic," which means she believes in faith healing, speaking in tongues, etc. In addition, this charismatic faith is connected (in her case, anyway) to a devout materialism and a high regard for television evangelists. She would do anything in the world, however, for her beloved baby brother's kids, of which I am one. Although her efforts to help me often take the form of criticism ("You need to ___." [Fill in the blank with: a) wear more makeup, b) fix your hair differently, c) wear nicer (i.e., my choice) clothes, d) paint your toenails, e) all of the above and more]), I am sure that she has my best interests at heart (if not in mind).

It was in this frame of mind that she decided one day that God could heal my stuttering. Luckily for me (?), it just so happened that two of her favorite TV evangelists - the "Happy Hunters" - were in town. The Hunters were a middle-aged couple who framed everything in hearts and held hands on their show all the time. (I thought they were pretty silly myself, but they apparently made a fairly decent living looking like adolescents disguised as Gray Panthers.)

To acquire this miracle for me, my aunt took me to this huge church/auditorium which looked more like a place for rock concerts than worship. At the end of the service, everyone who wanted the gift of the Holy Spirit, which to them meant speaking in tongues, was supposed to go up to the front. I was fairly certain that God understood the tongue I had always used in the past, but my aunt was very insistent (as usual) that I go up there and "receive the gift." I went to the front but, unlike most of the others, I felt just about further from God than I had ever felt in my life. Instead, I was quite anxious and just a little frightened. Needless to say, I was still speaking English when I returned to my seat.

My aunt was still convinced, however, that I was going to be healed. After the tongue service, everyone who wanted healing was supposed to go to this back room. Since my aunt was doing everything but getting behind me and pushing, I decided I had better go.

Everybody who had something wrong with them (or thought they did, or wished they did) were in this line, waiting for their miraculous healing. The husband half of the Happy Hunters was the healer standing up front, and he would call each healee up there, put his hands on their head, and say a few words. Then he would remove his hands, and the person would fall backwards, because he would be overcome by the Holy Spirit. Someone was thoughtfully provided to stand behind the healee and catch them, so they wouldn't split their heads open when they fell and have to get back in line for healing all over again. When I approached him, I told him about my stuttering, and he put his hands on my head and prayed for my fluency. Then he pronounced me healed and said, "Say `Praise the Lord!'"

"Praise the Lord," I replied. Of course, I was perfectly fluent, as I usually am when I repeat something that was just spoken.

"Praise the Lord! She's healed! She can talk perfectly now! Praise the Lord! Say it again! Praise the Lord!" Then he took his hands from me, and I stood there wondering if I was supposed to crumple up in a heap or what.

It was at that point that I am fairly certain that I felt something hit me behind the knees. What that something was, I am reluctant to say, since I couldn't see it. I know it's quite possible that the Holy Spirit chose to enter my body through my knees, although that predilection was unfortunately left out of my translation of Acts. All I can say for sure, is that I DID fall backward, just like all the others, and I was caught, just like all the others.

As we rode back to my aunt's house, I was very quiet. I couldn't bear to speak, because I knew if I did I would stutter, and I hated to disappoint my aunt after she had gotten so excited about it all. Maybe the problem was that I just didn't believe. If God wanted me to miraculously become fluent, I couldn't imagine that it would be through the bombastic imploring of some silly old guy who puts hearts all over everything.

added with permission August 25, 1997