By Alex Macias
Honestly, the Holy Spirit is a little intimidating. The Spirit tends to be at blame for many of our seemingly irrational activities. For example, I believe that the Spirit once directed me to speak with a stranger who may have needed a message of hope. I was walking along a major road to a friend’s house. At the time, I was in the second trimester of my first pregnancy. I had just barely gotten through the nausea part. A man was walking behind me talking on his cell phone. I could tell he was in distress, but because I’m a woman in Chicago my gut instinct is to be suspicious rather than compassionate. I eavesdropped. He was telling the person on the other end how sick he was. He had had some kind of dental procedure gone awry, gotten an infection, lost teeth, was unable to keep food down because of the pain, and had no money to change the situation. He cried on the phone, and it didn’t seem like the recipient was too sympathetic. “How sad,” I thought and kept walking. That’s when I believe the Holy Spirit stepped in. It went something like this:
HOLY SPIRIT: You know how it feels to be sick like that. Pretty recently actually.
ALEX: Yeah. And?
HS: Maybe you should talk to him.
ALEX: Absolutely not.
HS: Yeah…yeah you should talk to him.
HS: Say something.
ALEX: This is crazy. I am clearly making up this conversation.
HS: No really, I think he may actually feel comforted by it.
ALEX: Listen, if the traffic light up ahead stays green by the time I get to the crosswalk, that will be a sign to me that I don’t have to talk to this person.
(Traffic light turns red.)
ALEX: Ok we’re going to go best out of three.
MAN (while Alex is now audibly mumbling to herself): Excuse me, do you know what time it is?
And that is how I came to hold hands, cry, and pray with a toothless man I didn’t know at the corner of Foster and Western Avenues. The Holy Spirit is a meddler.
I grew up in a church that discussed the Holy Spirit’s leading, but there was little talk of the power of the Holy Spirit. There was an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit was engaged in a battle with dark spirits. This was scary but largely invisible to me and therefore easily forgotten. More regularly, the Holy Spirit was presented as a beefed up version of the conscience – as in children were taught that the Holy Spirit helps you determine right from wrong. It was a decidedly Christo-centric environment with the Father coming in a close second, but the Holy Spirit was regarded with a vague distrust. The Holy Spirit was expected to be orderly and any displays that were counter-cultural enough were almost certainly determined to be not of the Spirit.
In college, I began working for a group home for teenage girls in crisis which was run by a Pentecostal organization. Here I saw the Holy Spirit engaged and invoked in a direct way. There was time built into a service specifically to allow the Spirit to move. Sermons were scrapped because the Spirit was leading in a tangential direction. People shouted, wept, danced, and fell. The dependence on the Holy Spirit here was coupled with the power of prayer and the encouragement of women leaders who had been gifted by the Spirit – even young girls recognized for prophetical gifts. When I commented to one co-worker that I did not speak in tongues, it blew her mind. With my background this initially felt mostly chaotic and uncomfortable, but over the years I learned to appreciate the group’s comfort level with the wild child of the Godhead. I saw miracles. At various events, girls who had been so broken by their choices or circumstances, even those involved in the occult, fell to their knees in prayer never to be the same.
Since then I have been a member of the Covenant Church and the discussions surrounding the Holy Spirit have been of a different nature mostly during spiritual direction. By the light of a candle, my spiritual director and I embrace the peace of recognizing God’s constant presence through discussion, prayer, or silence. We may go through worries I have, conflicts I’ve engaged in, or events that I’m celebrating. Or we may not. But during that time, we are sitting conscious of the present moment and allowing the breath of life to course through the body. I’m not always capable of discerning what the Spirit is doing, but it’s not my job to always understand that. With practice though, I am able to rest in the mystery of God, the Spirit that hovered over the waters of creation.