Somewhere along the way, he died.
The guy who would arbitrarily dye his hair, sing and dance with abandon in the kitchen, and even be an Elvis impersonator at his best friend’s wedding.
Like most people, it didn’t happen overnight.
It was a series of small deaths. Some admittedly needed to go; maturity is a fact of life after all. In addition, as adults we accumulate responsibilities that can’t just be neglected and ignored.
But the pain of the death was realized most notably when I noticed it had even bled into my religious life. I was in the middle of this amazing Story full of imagination and wonder, yet in some way it was lacking the full creativity and enthusiasm and joy it merited.
Here I was, on the path to ministry, deeply embedded in a journey of formation, while on some level, I was blocked to much of it.
But it was in this religious education that I was able to put my finger on what was actually occurring. I was ignoring the Holy Spirit.
I was performing quite well for those in my context: bosses were pleased, colleagues were pleased; I can’t say my family was fully pleased, but most everyone around me was happy with this version of myself.
But the one person who mattered—the Holy Spirit—was, in my view, a tad restless.
She was pulling and prodding, knocking and tapping, trying to get my attention.
Thankfully, I found myself in a position to finally stop and listen.
I was recently laid off and as a result, was presented with the unique blessing of time before transitioning to my new vocation in ministry. On the outset I decided to be intentional with this time, not only in helping around the house with daily tasks, but also with setting some personal goals. Some of my goals were to try new things, a sort of short-term “bucket list”. I’ve now shot a handgun, tried a jiu-jitsu class, planted a “garden”, and played more tennis and golf. Other goals were broader, such as to engage Scripture more fully, and relax a little more.
Like a smack across the face, I connected that it was the Holy Spirit at work again, making another go at my attention, creating a space for this flame to be reignited. She was begging me to allow her to speak and to resurrect the dormant areas in my life and spiritual development.
At last, I decided to listen.
I can’t say it has been easy. And I’m not suggesting it’s not a little scary. But my guess is that most people fall into this camp, that being open to the Spirit is just a little bit scary. But it’s this vulnerability and openness that also creates the indescribable joy only God can offer. Our “control” can only lead us so far. But once we turn things over to God, barriers are lifted and the fun really begins. It reminds me of the story in the Bible when Ezekiel has a vision of dead, dry bones, and prophesies, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (emphasis mine).
God wants to give you the Spirit to offer you true life. An exciting life. YOUR life. Not a life devoid of suffering or struggle. This is not a promise God would be make. But a life of fullness and joy. To have those old bones come to life again. But I’m warning you, it can be a little nerve-wracking.
It’s almost like being on a roller coaster, slowly creeping up that steep incline. The car you’re in is surging slowly, climbing up that steep incline. Excitement is building but you’re terrified. You’re gripping tightly to the safely harness around your chest, bursting in anticipation at the roaring thrill that is only seconds away. But once you’ve crested that hill and the ride truly unleashes, the exuberance and thrill of the experience roars into your consciousness, igniting unmitigated joy and adrenaline.
This is what happens when you surrender to the Holy Spirit.
So what I’m really saying is, let that freak flag fly. Create some space in your life to quiet the noise and listen to the Holy Spirit and be obedient. Be you and don’t let the pressures of the world keep it at bay. The journey might be a little scary at first, but ultimately it’s the thrill of a lifetime.
After all, it is God who truly knows you best and it is God who is shaping you to be who you should be. Don’t allow the noise of your surroundings and the pressure of life to drown at that most important voice.
Yep, I’ve started to dance and sing in the kitchen again (much to the dismay of Kristan and the kids as they flee the room in horror). But the Spirit is being reborn in my life. And that’s all that really matters.
I hope it will for you as well.
If you are not quite sure where to start, I invite you to reach out to your pastor or religious leader for guidance. They’re trained in this stuff, after all. Or, you can contact my friend Linda and/or her staff of Spiritual Directors at the Charlotte Spirituality Center, http://www.charlottespiritualitycenter.org.