Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Holy Spirit is so Difficult to Grasp

The Holy Spirit: Like Water, it is difficult to GraspWithin Christianity, The Holy Spirit is one of the things that is the most difficult for me to understand. I'll admit I'm one of those people who has trouble with faith. I like facts, tangible things, evidence of existence. I make a good Project Manager because I deal well with those things that one can account for in life. People, time, money. I love religion because it challenges everyone of those things to its core and makes me think.

I truly enjoyed the description of the Holy Spirit in the popular book, The Shack. Early in the story, Wm. Paul Young describes the Holy Spirit from the point of view of the main character, Mack. "His eyes had to work to see her [Holy Spirit] at all...he knew all of this as more an impression of her than from actually seeing her, as she seemed to phase in and out of his vision."

I've got to admit, that's often how I feel about the Holy Spirit. My mind grasps the idea for a brief moment, but then it slips away. Like hands trying to grasp water, the Holy Spirit slips through my fingers. That this Spirit is one in the same as God, is one in the same as Jesus, is one in the same as Spirit is baffling. I want to believe and understand, but it phases in and out of my vision.

An illuminating moments came for me late in December of last year. I was working on the sermon for my New Years Eve retreat. Our theme was "Thresholds" and I had decided to speak about Noah and his Arc, and about Jesus and the Last Supper. Big ideas, and I wanted to give insightful reflections to my retreat-goers.

What I struggled with was God, and God's relationship with humanity. I've long wrestled with there being two personalities of God. In the Old Testament He seems judgmental, harsh, quick to anger, and fascinated by rules. The God of the New Testament, however, is the new, kinder, gentler God. How could God be so different in the two texts? Was it because He had a Son? The real problem for me, and one I do believe is that God does not change. I needed to resolve this for myself before I could piece together this Sermon.

Reading, and praying, and thinking, I stumbled back into the fact that God and Love are one in the same. What if God, in His infinite Love, in being a single continuous force, did not change ... but God's people did? What if in being Love, in wanting to have a relationship with each person on this planet, God reaches out again and again, hoping to make a connection with each human? What if the stories of the Bible seem different because the people in those stories and times needed different things? What if instead of changing, God continues to pour Himself out in an attempt to reach each of us?

The Spirit led me to this realization. It is through Love that God reaches out to each of us. It is because God pours Himself out for each of us, goes to great lengths to reach each of us that the stories change. God made a bush burn without being consumed, God asked Noah to give up everything, God gave His only Son, God keeps doing amazing things in the hope that it will touch our hearts. God is asking us to do the same, to pour out our love, to take a crazy risk, to put ourselves out there and fulfill our role in this life.

I think that its the Holy Spirit that helps us see this Love. It spreads the Love, and beckons us each to understand that it is through pouring ourselves out that we are actually opening ourselves up to more than we can ever imagine. Like Jesus, like Noah, if we have faith, if we give of ourselves and take a risk, we live our lives to their fullest potential.

So, this Sunday, which is Pentecost, look for the Holy Spirit in the things that make your heart take flight. We are each here for a reason.

"A bird's not defined by being grounded, but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image." - Eloise (God), The Shack

4 comments:

Tabitha in Bliss said...

Paula, this moved me deeply. I read the shack a few months ago and it truly helped me in my understanding of God. Your reasoning and conclusions made complete sense to me. Love is indeed the key and I'm determined to spread it.

Wonderfully written my friend!

Brian said...

Dear Paula,
Of course, the Holy Spirit will always be difficult to grasp - how can we grasp God? As far as the book "The Shack", it is a nice book, but I would not recommend it to someone who is on a true search for understanding. I would like to recommend a wonderful book that will help you understand the Spirit - You can not grasp or try to understand the Spirit without considering the Father and the Son.

The book is named " Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to the Abundant Christian Life" by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal household.

http://www.amazon.com/Contemplating-Trinity-Path-Abundant-Christian/dp/1593250975

It is an awesome book. I hope you read it and post a comment.

God bless!

Liz said...

Great post, Paula!

Joe Pote said...

"In the Old Testament He seems judgmental, harsh, quick to anger, and fascinated by rules. The God of the New Testament, however, is the new, kinder, gentler God."

Paula, like you, I had previously thought of Jesus as loving and the Father as rather domineering. Then, in reading of Christ in the garden saying "...not my will but thine..." I realized it was the love of the Father all along.

He has always acted in love toward us, always working toward a plan of our redepmtion...