Where do I begin?
Why is every other post starting like this? Need to get my head together, this whirlwind, and put this all down somewhere.
Ok, um, ok. I think I got it. I think. So.
Let me try to do this from a new perspective, like from a ‘it’s not all about me’ perspective.
Holy Spirit retreat this weekend. That is, a two day one night thing away from life life to learn more about the Holy Spirit as part of the Alpha course. So I’ve been sporadically going for this thing my church is doing called the Alpha course. It’s basically like Christianity 101 for people who are curious about what the big deal is about God and the Bible and a place where they can ask all their questions. I’m currently in the Youth Alpha, so there are these pretty bite-sized and thought-provoking videos for us every week on different topics like “Who is Jesus?” and stuff like that. We’re somewhere in the middle of the course by now and the topic for the retreat was on the Holy Spirit.
Here are the videos we watched these couple of days. They aren’t very long and it’ll kind of give you some context as to what I’m going on about.
Bottom line for me at least:
- Holy Spirit is a person, that is, it’s a He, not an It
- He’s equal with the Father and Son persons of the Godhead Trinity
- He awesome
I’ve always had a confused idea of the Holy Spirit and I still don’t get everything about Him but that’s ok. God is a mystery I’ll spend my whole life figuring out haha. I think the word that throws me off the most is the word ‘spirit’. It makes me think of like, ghosts and stuff. And He is referred to as the Holy Ghost in some translations so He was always like a even more intangible version of the Father-Son image of God. When I pray, I don’t think I even refer to Him in prayers. It’s always ‘Father’ and ‘Jesus’. But I do know that the Holy Spirit is there, He is in me and He is working to change me.
I hadn’t always thought of it like that. I hadn’t always been sure that I had the Holy Spirit inside of me because I didn’t feel supernaturally more awesome than average. I used to think that I absolutely needed to have the gift of tongues, see visions, dream dreams or be on a constant high, to experience something big and obviously supernatural, for me to know that the Holy Spirit was there in me and that I was going in the right direction. Things like that, tongues and visions, I considered to be an outward and foolproof manifestation and evidence of the Holy Spirit living in me and growing in the way He wanted me to. Tongues and visions became a kind of standard, a mark of holiness, a comment on my spirituality.
And it killed me because I didn’t have any of these things. And I wanted to so badly. I wanted to be assured so so much.
This was basically how my Christian walk was up to a point: eager and determined decisions to lead the pure and blameless life, falls and sins, wrecked with guilt and feels unworthy to ask and receive forgiveness (for the same sin again for which I had professed to repent of before), considered the lack of spiritual highs a result of my repeated sin and a sign of me being separated from God (because He was mad at me), grovelled and tried to do penance and when I felt I’d done enough, I went back to step one. Repeat repeat repeat.
There had been just so much fear and guilt in my walk then, because I couldn’t believe that salvation was free. It was just too easy. I couldn’t accept it like that. So I made my own terms and conditions so that I wouldn’t shortchange God as much as I could.
Yea, no, I dunno.
Thankfully, I grew out of this. A friend reminded me not to trust in these deceptive things called feelings. Not that feelings in and of itself is bad. It isn’t. It’s part of what makes us human. But the Bible did warn against the deceptive heart, something along the lines of
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Compared to the truth of God, like the rock solid truths of God in the Bible, our feelings aren’t that much reliable. Regardless of how we feel, how I feel so far away from God, the truth of God doesn’t change, and it was that truth that set me free. Never understood what “the truth will set you free” meant either, until it did set me free. The truth of God’s salvation to all who believed in Him, despite my sins and my past, is freely available. And trusting in that, no matter how difficult it seemed to me (like it was still too incredible for me to grasp) was the truth and it set me free from my self imposed bondage to guilt and penance.
My walk took on a new direction from then. It was still hard for me to trust that His love was big enough to cover all my sins, loads of stuff I am not proud of, but He must have worked on me because it’s been ten years give or take, and it’s something I’m finally getting my head around. Not to say I take His grace and mercy for granted and don’t feel guilty when I sin, but rather, I know that if I come to Him sincerely to repent of my sins, He will forgive me and actually get His hands dirty to help me not do that again.
I digress. Anyways, I know I wasn’t the only one who was confused about the Holy Spirit, and considered His manifestations a sign as to how their spiritual walk with God was too.
I kind of accepted along the way that the Holy Spirit works in different ways for different people, that people have different gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit but it’s still the same Spirit that unites everybody for the good of God’s ministry. Also, He doesn’t have to account to me. He’s God and can work whichever way He pleases. He’s not confined to my box of what I think He should do.
It was still hard, especially when people were getting these crazy miracles and testimonies and stuff. I wish I could have a crazy ass testimony like that once in a while. Why shouldn’t I? But God reined me in from chasing after an experience, an emotional high or displays of miracles. I think He was trying to teach me something very 101: to live by faith and not by sight.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
So I accepted it as my lot, that the Holy Spirit would work in me in other ways, not necessarily through such supernatural gifts. And I’m assured that everyone who believes has the Holy Spirit in them to guide them and teach them how to live for God, which is by far the more important aspect of the Holy Spirit living in me.
That’s basically how I know the Holy Spirit is alive in me. When I feel poor, as a person, as a Christian, when I feel completely lacking and flawed and fallen, when I feel the burning struggles of flesh and spirit, I am so comforted because I know that that’s the Holy Spirit working in me. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can convict me to wretchedness, to reflect how base I am, and then to teach me how to live going forward. He shows me my needs and meets them. He fights for me when my flesh is tempted to fall into sin. The pricks of my conscience which I once felt were marks of my weakness became my comfort and assurance that I was going the right way.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
or lose heart when He rebukes you.
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.“
Hebrews 12:4 – 6
See, if I were living according to the world, or to myself, I would really just go with the flow. I wouldn’t meet with resistance. But because kingdom values are so counter-cultural, I’m always struggling, and that’s good. For one, it means I’m alive, and two, it means I’m still fighting.
This is my current relationship with the Holy Spirit. Basically trying not to solely chase after supernatural experiences but to believe in the truth of His salvation, regardless of my feelings (in this case, lack of supernatural encounters). Also, trying to walk closely to Him and be sensitive to what He has to teach me.
He has taught me a lot, and He’s keeping it coming, but He’s also very gracious in giving me the comfort and assurance I need in the form of His presence.
He poured Himself out today at worship and gave me the assurance I was seeking. The hall was just so filled with his presence, I can’t even explain. Normally, Holy Spirit worship and altar calls scare the living daylights out of me and makes the sports commenter voice in my head work overtime. I take notice of everything, jumping at what the pastor is saying so literally, how my body is responding (are my knees feeling weak? Oh my God, it’s getting hot etc.) and how empty and quiet my head is without any deep Aslan voice speaking to me. My narrator voice just goes on a frenzy and occupies my mind, filling it with mindless chatter about everything and nothing just to pass the time.
But today, it was a pretty chill rest in the Spirit kind of thing. No pressure to rush or force anything. Just rest and be there, for God. So I did. And He answered me. He came and just rested upon me. I was so assured, so comforted that He was there in that place. Even though I wasn’t falling down and suddenly spouting out in tongues and all that, it was all I needed to be comforted and secured of who He was to me, and who I was to Him. It was what I didn’t know I was seeking, and it was enough.
To be honest, I think He encountered me like that also because I wasn’t particularly expecting anything, or had any specific burning burden on me. Just the usual self improvements and work and school. So I wasn’t praying especially hard for anything, or seeking or expecting. I wasn’t even gunning for a ‘supernatural’ experience or high to prove to myself about my spiritual walk. And I think that freed me up to really just come before Him to seek Him for who He is, and not for anything on my agenda, as well-intentioned as my agenda was.
I left the retreat and it was only on the bus ride home that I felt that something had changed. I hadn’t gone to the retreat feeling the best. I wasn’t even feeling particularly exceptional by the end of day one. But after all was said and done then, I just had this kind of peace and joy in me, the moment where something in you clicks and everything settles and fits inside of you.
I still have a lot to do to become what He wants me to be, and I’m just assured and reassured that I am not alone in this so it’s not by my power and will, but by His.
Things that I feel the Holy Spirit was convicting me to work on (even before the retreat):
- to serve graciously and willingly in the spirit of
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,
- to love people more, with a open and overflowing heart
- to be humbled enough for Him to use me
I was also a bit troubled by my words, like what I was saying. I wanted so much to share my experiences and to just bless with my words and testimony, but my words were so inadequate and (what I fear) misleading. More often than not, after every conversation, I would be replaying the whole thing in my head and kicking myself because “I should/shouldn’t have said that” and the rest of the time was spent wondering if I could salvage things by continuing a conversation that had ended hours ago.
Here, God reminded me that
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So just trusting that He will somehow reveal His truths to whoever it was I had been speaking too despite my clumsy words. Because it all begins and ends with Him anyways.
Also, I don’t feel like explaining myself sometimes, and being so careful to clarify and justify myself in front of people. I want to, so that we can share and grow together and all that, but I don’t want to be crippled by what I said or didn’t say, whether it stumbled someone after hearing what I’d shared.
I dunno. Not coming through the clearest here.
The other enlightening point in the video is to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit as opposed to my current system of on/off with being enlightened and walking with Him. Don’t actually know how to do this yet, but trusting in Him to basically walk me through this. Chase after God, not an experience. So so important. And that it’s the Holy Spirit who has the strength to help us to change, not ourselves no matter how hard we try, because we are so finite and limited, but God knows no bounds.
Those are most of my thoughts thus far condensed. I think it’s comprehensive enough, at least for me to look back on and remind myself what happened. Could be more in depth a bit. Maybe sometime soon.
Catch y’all around kiss kiss