22. Led By the Spirit

Jesus anticipated that you would need the Holy Spirit to enable you to recognize and properly interpret God’s action in the world and in your life:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. (John 14:26)

It is also the Holy Spirit who enables us to recognise God’s action in our own life:

For the Spirit scrutinises everything, even the depths of God. Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him ...

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. (Romans 8:14-17, 26-27)

Attempting to run away from our fears is the surest way of running right into them.

The steps we take on the journey into reality delicately combine personal responsibility and the work of God’s Spirit working in us and in unison with us. This all takes place in the ordinary circumstances of our lives because our ordinary life, our mission in life, and our “spiritual” life are all made from the same material, the same events.

When we are unsure of the way, it helps to touch base with what we are sure of. Sometimes the confusion is only our lack of understanding, but at a deeper level we still have a sense for what is real. Then we must take responsibility for choosing reality. The more we are in touch with reality - reality of any kind - the more reality can touch and heal us.

Whatever leads to confusion, turmoil, or paralysis is not what God wants for you. Simply declining to go with such thoughts breaks their hold on you. Declining them is not the same as trying to push them away. Attempting to run away from our fears is the surest way of running right into them. To disempower our fears we first need to “own” them. In this way they lose their power to frighten us. Talking about them with a trusted friend can help this process. Sometimes it can help to stand outside our fear by speaking to it, or by looking at it and speaking to Jesus about it. The fear then gradually loses its hold.

Over time, it is possible to notice a pattern in your personal experience of God’s dealings with you. In this pattern you discover and rediscover how God has been faithful to you. This discovery leads to deeper joy and gratitude. The challenge within it is to be faithful to what you see! You do this by trusting God in the times ahead of you. This is what it means to obey the Holy Spirit who has already accompanied you on a familiar and reliable path. This will take you to great heights. “Scaling the heights” is the kind of imagery mystics use to talk about the journey into reality, towards becoming the person God calls you to be - your true self:

Believe steadfastly in what you have seen. Even if the way up to the High Places appears obscured and you are led to doubt whether you are following the right path, remember the promise: your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, this is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right and when you turn to the left. Always go forward along the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.

(Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places)

For Practice

  • In a journal, write down any events or times when God seemed to be especially present, or any insights into how God has been dealing with you, or any special grace you have received. Note, too, any fears or disappointments or crises that turned you towards God and what these led to. Continue to write in your journal as you see fit. After a few months, re-read what you have written in the context of prayer.
  • Write a letter addressed to God about some event that has been significant for you, or write down what you think Jesus might be wanting to say to you.

For Prayer

Lord, Holy Spirit,
you blow like the wind
in a thousand paddocks,
inside and outside the fences,
you blow where you wish to blow.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
you are the sun who shines on the little plant,
you warm him gently, you give him life,
you raise him up to become a tree
with many leaves.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
you are the mother eagle with her young,
holding them in peace under your feathers.
On the highest mountain
you have built your nest,
above the valley, above the storms of the world,
where no hunter ever comes.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
you are the bright cloud in whom we hide,
In whom we know already
that the battle has been won.
You bring us to our brother Jesus
to rest our heads upon his shoulder.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
You are the kind fire who does not cease to burn,
consuming us with flames of love and peace,
Driving us out like sparks to set the world on fire.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
In the love of friends
you are building a new house,
Heaven is with us when you are with us.
You are singing your song
in the hearts of the poor.
Guide us, wound us, heal us.
Bring us to the Father.

James K. Baxter, Song of the Holy Spirit