When the Holy Spirit May or May Not Show Up
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
I don’t talk about the Holy Spirit very often. She’s something I never heard about growing up – we Baptists weren’t all that Trinitarian, and focused much more on the Creator God and the Son Incarnate than we did on that floofy, fluffy, tongues of fire Pentecostal Spirit thing. We believed firmly that speaking in tongues was something of the past, and instead of working with the Holy Spirit, we reframed it as Jesus. So it was in college, in an Introduction to Christian Thought course, that I first started thinking about the Trinity.
(An apology now to my atheist readers who come here more for feminism than for a churchy sermon. I’ll be back to myself soon.)
This Holy Spirit thing seemed weird to me. My professor suggested praying to each member of the Trinity as a way to honor God’s Three-in-Oneness, and it never felt right to begin a prayer with “Hey Holy Spirit.”
(I was a big fan of casual prayers then. I started most of them with “Hey Daddy.”)
But then I discovered some more charismatic friends, some more charismatic ideas and services, and began “feeling the Spirit.” I never spoke in tongues, and I never had anything so strange as what you see on those weird televangelist meetings on TV. But I began to listen more for the Spirit’s leading, and prayed about every major decision in my life – and many minor ones – asking the Spirit to lead me.
(Most of the responses seemed to align with whatever I’d already wanted to do).
There’s a lot of theological work done on the Holy Spirit, from how we should gender Her to what Pentecost means to what gifts of the Spirit exist and so on and so forth ad infinitum. I’m not really here for that right now – if you want to debate the theological aspects of the Spirit, this is not that post.
(She is a She to me, but whatever designation works for you is alright with me.)
What I am here for is affirmation of the peculiar, quiet, little ways in which the Spirit works good in our lives. The ways in which our humanity comes to bear on the ongoing project that is the Church. The multiplicity of voices that this humanity requires.
I’m not here for gatekeepers who will question and vet and try to determine by my tone or the arguments I use or the diction I choose whether or not I am Spirit-led or career-led or just writing for me.
(Can’t it be all three? Why does it have to be just one?)
I am here for a God who shows up even if I don’t have the right word today or any day. I am here for a God who works wonders even through people who don’t satisfy the gatekeepers of the Church. I am here for the ones who have been silenced by those who checked a call from God against Scripture and came up with a no.
(And the Spirit, I believe, is here for those things, too.)
I believe that She finds our voices important, feeble though they may be. Conflicted though they may be. Angry though they may be.
Regardless of whatever pseudo-religious “calling” you feel, write. Speak. Lead. Stomp your feet and cry. Protest. Fight. Carry the banner. Fall down when you cannot speak anymore and the rest of us will carry you through. We need your voice. We need your safe spaces. We need room for those who are deconverting; for those who are finding their footing in a new, scary world; for those who are challenging old ways and old habits that die hard.
Screw the gatekeepers who say you have to have your motivations solidified and clarified and distilled before you can put pen to page.
Just do it.
(And maybe the Spirit’ll show up. Who knows.)
Note: My mother is home from the hospital now and in recovery. Thank you for all your well-wishes, good thoughts, and prayers.