The Holy Spirit on the Move
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
Today we are wrapping up our multi-part series of blog posts on the Holy Spirit. If you have followed along for the past six posts, you might have noticed that there is no one right way or system by which we are able to interact with the person of the Holy Spirit. Our writers have described the variety of ways that they have interacted with and been impacted by the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives. This could bring both comfort or frustration to those who are still growing in their confidence of experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in their life.
The biblical descriptions and explanations of the Holy Spirit’s presence are also varied and diverse. The Scriptures use five different images or metaphors to help us understand the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. There is wind, fire, water, tongues, and a dove. Each of these metaphors helps us to understand an aspect of the Spirit’s work in the church and world, and they all work together to give us language for our own experiences and an invitation to explore. I have personally benefited in my own life with God by others who lovingly “push” me beyond my known and safe boundary markers of experience with the Holy Spirit. Our prayer is that you have been inspired to lean into the gift of God’s presence in the person of the Holy Spirit.
For the past nine years, I have had the privilege of joining a group of pilgrims on a five day backpacking adventure in Utah and Arizona. This experience is a guided walk through the Paria River Canyon which flows into the Colorado River at the official starting point of the Grand Canyon. It is a majestic walk.
I am not naturally an outdoors person. I don’t look for opportunities to sleep on the ground, carry my food, shelter, and water on my back or hike rugged terrain with potential physical danger...except for this one week a year. You may be asking, “Why?” Because I need a loving “push.” And this push comes through the guided nature of the walk. Each day is themed around the section of the canyon that we are walking through, and each day begins with some prompting questions that we carry with us through the day. At the evening meal, we have conversation with our fellow pilgrims and download together what we “heard.”
For the first five years, I dreaded day four of the walk. Day four is the day of identity. The question, “What does God think about you?” is the prompt we walk with. I can remember the first time I was asked to walk with this millstone of a question for a very long day. And I remember listening to the glorious stories of God’s love and care for my trailmates while we ate freeze dried lasagna. Yet, for me, nothing. I heard nothing, and I felt nothing. This happened the next year and the next. My fourth year I remember leaving camp ahead of the prompt being shared, knowing that this was going to be a long and painful day for my heart, soul, mind, and body. And it was.
The fifth year was different. I walked into the canyon that week with some real questions about how to parent my oldest son during his early teen years. I was struggling to connect with him, and I was constantly worried about what he was doing. I would regularly and suspiciously interrogate him before he left the house and after he came home. I was very restrictive in the rules that I wanted him to obey because I was anxious about what might happen to him or what he might do. He felt this was controlling and indicated a lack of trust. We were not communicating well, and I knew that something needed to change. I was stuck.
Fast forward to day four. We awake to a beautiful morning in the canyon, and I am immediately anxious and irritated. I know what the question is, and I know that I don’t want to walk all day, again, with the deafening silence. I don’t know why I don’t know (or don’t want to know) what God thinks about me. But you can’t get to day five without day four and I’m leaving this place tomorrow so off I go.
The day was typical. Lot’s of good conversation with my trailmates and time alone. Day four also has a stretch of two hours of total solitude and silence built in as we walk alone, in ten minute intervals. It is typical to not be able to see anyone in front or behind you for long stretches of the walk. There are also a couple of precarious portions of the trail that are challenging to maneuver for me. I’m afraid of heights and there is one particular stretch where four or five steps have to be taken with great care at the highest elevation of the trip. I call it, “the move.”
I’d always thought about bringing my son on this trip with me. During the solo time, I was reflecting on our relationship and the challenges that I saw going forward and what it would be like to have him on this trail. Then I almost froze with fear as I approached “the move” with Tucker on my mind. Our issues at home were now present with me on this trail, and I couldn’t imagine him, here, on this ledge by himself.
Then I wondered what I would say to my son if he were here with me. What would I tell him just before I sent him out, alone, into the wilderness of the canyon? A rush of emotion overcame me and my body physically tingled as I thought of exactly what I would say. “I am so proud of you!” That is how I would send my son onto the trail. In the same moment, falling to me knees and dropping my pack, I finally was able to hear for the first time what my Father thought of me. I am reminded of Jesus’ baptism told through the Gospel of Luke:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
There’s the dove. The Holy Spirit isn’t an actual dove, just like He is not wind or rain or fire or tongues, but He is like a dove in this sense. He confirms the identity of Jesus as God’s Beloved Son. I didn’t see a dove that day but unexplainably on this walk on this day the Spirit chose to blow and to confirm to me something that has always be true of me. I am a beloved son of God, and He is proud of me.
We have seen how the Holy Spirit comforts us and directs our attention to situations and supernaturally empowers us to bless others beyond human capacity. I am reminded that He is fundamental in confirming our true identity as sons and daughters of God.
Post by Jeff Krajewski.