Experiencing the Spirit

I’ve always loved the Holy Spirit rather more than most, I think. For years, I told people he was my favorite person of the Trinity, if it’s not blasphemy to pick favorites among the coequal, coeternal persons in the triune Godhead. When your gifts are as churchy as mine, it’s easy to have powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit. And I certainly have, whether it’s through speaking or giving counsel or just following God’s prompting to visit a random town in Ohio or fly out of Norfolk for no good reason.

I describe him as a power running through my veins, like adrenaline or alcohol or caffeine. He heightens my experience of the world and makes me more alive.

2016-04-06 19.03.13But last week in a powerful homily Father asked us to imagine the Holy Spirit not just within but behind us, catching us up and pushing us along, and the Lord gave me the most beautiful image. I’m sure I can’t describe it adequately, but I think I have to try.

The Spirit is a wind that you can see and feel, a wind that has a personality you can understand, though he speaks only mutely. He communicates by the things he catches up and shows you, the places he draws you, and the way he moves you. When he first begins to blow around you he may be gentle and enticing, but at a certain point he sweeps you off your feet, spinning you around before gently setting you back down. When he takes control, you can choose how to respond. You can fight, clinging to lamp posts and trying to keep charge of your life. And more often than not, he’ll back off and let you continue trudging along through your dreary life, oblivious to the joy and wonder he’s trying to open to you.

But you’ll find that when you fight him you often end up hurting yourself. The less you trust, the more you clench your fists around your own plans and ideas, the more you find your shoulder wrenched, your nails broken, your neck aching from whiplash. When you give in, though, surrendering to the movement you don’t understand, there’s an unexpected comfort and even a whimsy. You might be spun into the air laughing for joy or gently cradled for a moment of rest. The wind is at times warm and comforting, at times a bracing chill to wake you. He’s got emotions, too, that you can sense from how he’s moving but that you also inhale, finding yourself filled with power or clarity or peace amid turmoil. It’s different depending on what he’s doing–he’s nothing if not unpredictable.

Watch this brilliant video for some sense of what I mean, only with more of a personality and taking you into the air as well as around on your feet:1

I’ve been sitting with this image of the Spirit all week, allowing myself to be caught up in his dance and filled with his power. Sometimes I see myself reaching out to grab something that isn’t for me and left tumbling, falling, falling before suddenly he catches me again and puts me back where I belong.

flameIt’s somehow both thrilling and peaceful, a gentle ride on Aslan’s breath or an hour in a tornado. It’s more a relationship with a person than just the motivation and inspiration I’ve felt before. I’m not sure if I’ve described it well enough, but maybe you can pray with this image during the octave of Pentecost, asking the Spirit to show you who he is and how he works. Find someplace still (before the Blessed Sacrament is always best) and picture yourself being caught up and carried about by the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s terrifying or out of control or just as it should be. Maybe you’re fighting it and the Spirit won’t leave you behind or maybe he leaves you be to try again later. Maybe there’s something specific you grasp that causes you to be pulled out of God’s will. Maybe it’s all too speculative. But this is where my spirit’s been all week and it’s been absolutely lovely to be getting to know the Spirit as a real person, not just a force. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!

  1. There’s some other animated piece, I think, that accomplishes what I’m imagining, but I can’t quite think what. It’s a little bit Toothless the dragon and maybe something from Peter Pan? And a lot of the Genie from Aladdin. And other bits that make it much more personal than this, but this is a start. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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5 Responses to Experiencing the Spirit

  1. Chris Culbertson says:

    Chesterton’s Manalive has always given me a sense of the Holy Spirit… well, the first several pages. I don’t know what the rest is about because the opening is so profound. I love your perspective that you share here. Thanks.

  2. Lianna says:

    What a great homily and image! Going to take this all to prayer. The Holy Spirit is truly boundless, and I wonder if that might be why devotion to the Holy Spirit can be lacking?

  3. John says:

    The Holy Spirit is tugging at our souls and the curious are following the tug back to its source. Our curiosity induces us to seek God at the holy places that define the escape route through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his holy family in the promised land. At the holy places, we experience close encounters with the living God. During a close encounter with the living God, a connection is made between heaven and earth and, through the connection, the light of heaven illuminates the darkness of godlessness. Nobody leaves a close encounter with the living God unchanged. Nobody leaves a close encounter with the living God empty handed. During a close encounter with the living God, God transforms us. The Church is the new Moses which helps the new exodus encounter the mystery, majesty and magnificence of God at the holy places as we make our escape from godlessness to paradise. The Church is the tour guide who shows us the sights to see as the curious follow the tug of the Holy Spirit to its source. The Church is the usher who shows us to our seats. It is God who puts on the show.

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