The Holy Spirit. I hadn’t given Him a lot of thought in recent years until the summer of 2011 when God said in no uncertain terms, “See this guy you know? Guess what – you really are the only Jesus he sees. He wants to know Me. Start talkin’, honey.” And in my first really honest prayer in several years, I said, “God, You’ve got to be effing kidding me.”
(I apologize – sincerely – if the profanity offends you, but that IS the edited version, so let’s call it a compromise. God didn’t strike me down, so I’m assuming it wasn’t a fatal error to cuss at Him.) He said He wasn’t kidding, I grumbled and shared the Gospel, and the guy accepted Christ.
So I kind of couldn’t ignore the Spirit, given that He’d just splashed down in the middle of my life and made a big exciting mess, but I also wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. Can you talk to him? Pray to him? Worship him? What does he DO, exactly? Get up in your business when somebody needs God, obviously, but what else? Is He what gives me the heebie-jeebies when I’m driving home from work late, and something in my head says “TAKE A DIFFERENT ROAD TONIGHT” and I say “OKAY I WILL” and feel like I’ve dodged a bullet?
Now, I know I wouldn’t do too well as a full-blown charismatic. (Somebody will have to tell me some day if you can be introverted and Pentecostal at the same time.) When people sway too hard during the song service, I’m always thinking, “Steady there.” People shouting “Preach it!” and “Truth!” during the sermon make me want to thump the back of their heads because I can’t hear the pastor. The one time I attended an Assemblies of God service, a guy started twirling in circles and hollering in tongues. It scared the living daylights out of me. Mostly, though, the service made me sad. They spent half an hour singing the same songs over and over, begging the Spirit to descend on them / be present there / set them on fire, and I just stood there thinking, “Guys! He’s ALREADY HERE!”
As time went by, though, I didn’t make a very good Baptist, either. We talk about the Holy Spirit, and we – funny, that collective pronoun is a hard habit to break. It’ll do for now … I’ve only been officially non-Baptist for three days, so bear with me. We believe in the Spirit, no doubt about that – He’s the one who makes all the believing happen, and reminds us to do right when we’re tempted to do wrong. But we’re just not very comfortable with Him.
I wish I was joking about this, but my just-barely-former church actually made the decision back in the 90’s to not sing the third verse of “Glorify Thy Name”, a simple and lovely modern hymn that mentions all three members of the Trinity. “Jesus, we love You, we worship and adore You / Glorify Thy name in all the earth.” That’s fine for Jesus, and it’s fine for the Father. But they just weren’t sure that it was kosher to worship the Spirit [insert long debate about how the Spirit always directs attention to the other members of the Godhead and there’s no Biblical precedent for worshiping him], so we just sang two verses and skipped to the next song.
That’s an extreme case of literalism run amok, I grant you. But even on the best days, I always felt like the third member of the Trinity was a little like that one uncle who lives in California. He’s a great guy, we love him a lot, and it’s a blast when we get to visit him. We send him pictures and Christmas cards, and sometimes we call him up just for fun. He loves us, and we love him, but we don’t live together or anything. Also, he’s a little odd, you know? Not BAD or anything, don’t get me wrong, but he’s just a little offbeat.
So you can imagine my bemusement when I started my gradual drift into Quaker readings and church services. They talk about the Spirit a lot, but not like I’ve ever heard him talked about. No fanfare or excitement, but he’s not the invisible elephant in the room, either. He’s just … part of things. Like the air, and water, and food. When the church I’ve been attending had a business meeting recently, they started it out with a few minutes of silence, in order to open their minds and hearts to whatever the Spirit had in mind for the meeting. Nothing woo-woo about it, just “Hey God, we’re having a meeting, wanna start us off? Thanks!”
If I’ve been used to the Holy Spirit as somebody who comes to church just a little overdressed and never stays for the whole service, this view of the Holy Spirit has him in jeans and work boots, getting there early to turn the lights on and staying afterwards in case anybody wants to go to lunch and hang out for a while. And you know, I think I just might.