Alive in the Spirit: Part 3Posted: June 25, 2014
This week, Jason Riddell shares his reflections on the Holy Spirit and Clive Calver’s Alive in the Spirit:
How did I get here?
In the past two weeks, I’ve taken my car for an emissions test, earnestly compared health benefits between four different providers, talked with my insurance agent about potentially saving money by switching plans, experienced a passing fancy in the stock exchange, and participated in a conversation centered around the mortality of family members and the dividing of assets.
Apparently I’m an adult now. I just don’t remember becoming one.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bemoaning my childhood becoming an ever-diminishing speck in life’s rearview mirror. I never wanted to stay there. Besides, I’m 28 years old- I’m not out of my depth here.
I’m more interested in the fact that somewhere along the way, without realizing that it was happening, I began to identify myself, to myself, as an adult. Somewhere along the way I started caring about budgets and framily plans and miles per gallon and the look of a freshly mowed lawn and cooking meals that weren’t cheese fries.
And somewhere, what are you going to do with your life turned into what are you doing with your life.
Did this happen to anyone else? Have you all come to the realization that, man, everything I do with every second of every day contributes to who I am, to what difference I make, to how I am remembered?
That stuff matters to me.
In reality, it always mattered to me, but somewhere, in passing from youth into adulthood, thoughts about my life and future turned from hopeful dreams into something resembling a mandate.
I need to be making something out of me.
Gosh, that’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at avoiding applying pressure on myself. That’s why I always got annoyed when my Dad would come over when I was waiting in the on-deck circle at a baseball game.
I would see him walking over from the bleachers and grimace before he even made it over to me.
‘Keep your eye on the ball,’ I’d think.
“Keep your eye on the ball,” he’d say.
“Got it, Dad.” I wouldn’t look at him. I was busy, thinking. ‘I can’t let another curve by me. I got fooled last time, I’ve got to stay back.’
“You got froze by that curve last time. Be sure to wait on it.”
“Got it, Dad.” Still not looking.
‘I’ve gotta look for him to miss with a fastball. I shouldn’t waste a swing on junk.’
“Make sure you get your pitch, okay? Something you can stroke.”
I wouldn’t even say anything at this point. It’s not that I was disagreeing with anything he was saying- I was saying the same thing to myself, after all. I just wanted it known that I knew enough to handle myself. That I could think through everything, be ready for anything, on my own. That I didn’t need my Dad’s help.
Sometimes- a lot of times- I’d think so much I’d make myself nervous. Then, I’d be so nervous I’d do something stupid, like swing at a first pitch curveball and hit a dribbler to second base. Then, because I did something stupid, I’d be mad. I’d be mad at myself, and I’d be mad at my father.
I don’t play baseball anymore. But I do go through the same routine. And I’ve found it’s much harder to live by these habits with life in general.
Life happens so much more slowly, and it takes more time to see the fruit of what you’re doing. In baseball, you immediately know the fruits of your efforts. Either you got on base, or you didn’t. And if you didn’t, there’s another chance coming in a couple of innings.
Still, the principle remains the same: don’t overthink it.
I’ve found my self-condemnation- like the anger I’d feel after striking out- often stems from an incorrect perception of myself. I’m too smart to do something that stupid, I’d think. Well, obviously not- I did it. It’s the same thing in the broader scope of life. I can do anything, I think.
Except I can’t.
The way I think of myself can become a hindrance to the Holy Spirit’s ability to do his work through me. If we believe ourselves to be capable of anything, we will attempt to plow our way through everything, and eventually become tired of crashing through wall after wall after wall after wall, and we’ll wonder, why, God, does life have to be so painful? Conversely, if we don’t think ourselves capable of anything, then we never try, and we’ll sit and wonder, why, God, doesn’t anything good happen to us?
And anywhere in between.
Really, the only truthful way to look at ourselves is that Christ is capable of anything, and we are capable of whatever it is that he wills for us exclusively by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within us.
If we approach life from any other perspective, we’ll only find frustration, or worse.
But the crucial thing, the thing I often forget, is that there’s a second piece to that truth. And if you don’t have the second piece, you can become just as tired following God’s will as you can following your own, even if you are following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Clive Calver mentions this truth on Day 8 in the Holy Spirit book:
“The living God is no arbitrary deity just trying to get His own way, but He longs to bring fulfillment to our lives.”
It is so, so, so easy to resent being told what to do. Especially, I think, as an adult, where it can go beyond annoying an become an assault on our identity. Truth be told, I learned to how to hear the Spirit’s voice at a young age. But I don’t always listen, because it’s important to me that I “make” it.
That I’m somebody.
That’s such a lie of the enemy! That’s exactly what we were given the Holy Spirit for- because no matter what we can make it look like to other people (and some of us are better at looking more together than others), none of us have within us everything we need for this life. We are ill-equipped without the guidance of the Spirit.
And yet, we need even more than that. The Holy Spirit is not simply a life GPS, the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the loving God within us. The God who named us, planned for us, cares for us, sent His Son to die for us. The Holy Spirit is not your boss, emailing you the stuff he expects you to get done today. He’s bringing you the plan that God has for your life- he’s showing you the path that will lead to the most fulfillment and happiness for you, and all you have to do is listen and obey.
It’s like the situation with my Dad and the on-deck circle. I was trying to prove to my Dad that I didn’t need him. I got annoyed because I felt like he didn’t trust me to do what he asked of me, and yet, all along, my performance was never the issue for him. He was going to love me no matter how I performed, and all of his advice- no matter how obvious it seemed- came from that place of unconditional love.
If I don’t get anything beyond that out of Calver’s book- just the simple reminder that every thing the Holy Spirit is asking me to do, no matter how strange or unorthodox or uncomfortable, is designed upon the foundation that my Father in Heaven loves me and wants the best for me- then it will have been a worthwhile read.
I might feel like a grown-up, but I’ll always be my Father’s child.
And children do what their Father says, because they know that He loves them.