Aware, Yet Unaware

Gravity. It’s there. Without it, we’d be air-swimming. There’d be nothing to anchor us, or to keep us from getting side-swiped by our refrigerator. (I already feel like my frig hates me anyway.) Thankfully, gravity is with us all the time. It has power and  influence. We depend on it to hold us in place. We know it exists, but don’t think about it much, if at all.

I’m convinced this is the way most of us regard the Holy Spirit. We give ascent to the fact He exists, but don’t often think about how and why He exists. As Jesus promised in John 14, the Holy Spirit dwells with us. We know this, as we know gravity exists, but we don’t think about Him alot. Personally, I think He gets cheated…. sort of relegated to a lower tier of the Trinity.

First off, puleeeeez notice the Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it”. In John 14 and 16, when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would be left to us after His own departure, He used the masculine pronouns he, him, his in reference to our new Helper (at least 14 times in these passages). I hear people in counseling refer to Him as an impersonal “it”, as though He’s some kind of inanimate object. For sure, I definitely don’t pretend to understand the supernatural, but this I do know: the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and He is alive and well.

The church calendar has just come off the season of Pentecost (which celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to us), and it has caused me to think of how unaware I am of the Spirit on a daily basis. How often do you think about the Holy Spirit? How much do you consider His role in your everyday life? After all, His presence is the part of God who enables us by His power to “guide us into all truth”. (John 16:13) The inspired word of God is our truth and authority. By it, we are taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained in righteousness (2 Timothy) 3:16), and the Spirit is the One who enables us to submit to it.  Without His presence, we’d naturally be prone to obey our flesh, think and act only out of emotion, and view things from the world’s perspective. We need Him in our lives desperately to ground and hold us (as spiritual gravity), to inform our hearts toward wisdom and righteousness. In His absence, there would be no repentance, no genuine forgiveness, no unselfishness…. just to enumerate a few natural train wrecks of our sinful selves.

These days of protests are highly inflammatory and polarizing. We know as believers, our highest calling is to glorify God through loving others. What does this look like? So often, we imagine love to be a feeling. When we’re called by God to love others who disagree with us, we have to implore the Holy Spirit to enable us to put aside the natural satisfaction of having to prove ourselves ‘right’. Yes, it feels good to win the debate, it gives us a sense of power, it appeals to our love of self-rightness. But, from a practical perspective, when you’re standing on a pedestal, the reach is much too far to wash another’s feet.
Love is a sacrificial choice, not an emotion. Jesus didn’t feel good about going to the cross, as evidenced by His plea to the Father to remove the cup from him, but he chose to demonstrate his love by sacrificially dying for us.  A choice, not a feeling. He made a decision to trust the Father with the outcome.

In this polarized climate of social and racial unrest, I’m daily challenged to put aside my feelings.  I’m a Senior Citizen who was raised in the culture of Old Richmond. I was taught to respect people of color and to be kind.  The monuments were nothing more to me than statues on a pretty, tree-lined street. I was never openly taught that one race was superior to another. Because of this, as a youngster, I never could understand why people of color weren’t allowed to sit at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, but instead had to stand over in a corner to eat their lunch.  I would wonder, “Why can’t they sit in any seat they choose on the bus, or why are there separate drinking fountains and bathrooms?” The whole thing seemed incongruent to me. How could you regard them with dignity as you would view anyone, but then treat them so much less importantly?

I candidly have to admit I’ve never considered myself to be a racist. Nevertheless, these times have pushed me to put myself in another’s shoes. An interesting note is I’m a graduate of Lee-Davis High School in Hanover County. I was a cheerleader for all four years, who can still remember the words to most of the cheers, and the school song, “Oh, we’re Confederates, L-D Confederates, and we will fight, fight, fight, with all of our might…..”  Those words were simply a chant to boost school spirit, as far as I was concerned. It never occurred in the least, not once, that it was even remotely related to slavery and the oppression of people. It was just the way it was in a pep rally, as we shouted loudly to get people excited about that evening’s game.  BUT now, when I feebly try and imagine myself as a person of color, and having to be surrounded by the reminders of racial inferiority all around me, it makes me think differently. I realize I have been oblivious to the hurt. Somehow, I have never connected others’  frustration and anger with any of it, and I am deeply saddened by my blindness.

I tell you all this to help you imagine where I’m coming from as an older person (we old folks are notoriously resistant to change), and more importantly, how, as a believer, I’m compelled to move forward in love, even though I could stay stuck in my ignorance of the past. Now, to be clear, you won’t see me marching in a peaceful protest, you won’t see me locked arm in arm with comrades, and you won’t hear me lament about street names and pancake boxes. I surely have nothing against people doing those things, but I know my change has to be deeper than that.  I will continue to lament for the lawlessness and unrest in our country, and I will seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to show me where I have sinned as an individual.

Dearest Readers,
Future peace isn’t ultimately about change to a structure or revisionist history. It’s about each individual searching their own heart and taking responsibility for what needs to change within themselves as they think about relationship. And I’m not exclusively talking about the relationship with my black and brown-skinned friends, or white friends who may disagree with me. I already have many precious relationships with black and brown-skinned people. The relationship I’m pressed to work on is the one with the Holy Spirit. You see, it isn’t easy to love those who don’t love me back, or those who misunderstand me, or those who don’t agree with me.  I need the spirit of the gospel to overwhelm me. I need to be aware of the power of Christ in me, given through the Holy Spirit….to pray for others, wash another’s feet, serve other’s needs. This is what will change me and allow me to press on in love. Nothing less will effect change in us from the inside out. Nothing less will change the culture or the world. Nothing less will correct injustice or satisfy the unbridled anger of the oppressed. We need to intentionally rely on the Holy Spirit to speak truth to us, and put away the emotions which foster finger-pointing, blameshifting, and foul language.

Developing an acute awareness of the love of Christ for us, through the reminding of the Holy Spirit, will lead us to have loving relationship with others for His sake. Which position will glorify Him more? To prove ourselves right and justified in our personal views? Or…..to follow His example of, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:23)

One of the primary jobs of the Holy Spirit is to be our helper. This doesn’t mean He comes in once a week to assist us with our chores. He isn’t a friend who simply rushes over to rescue us when we’re too weak to stand. He lives in us. He grounds us. He speaks what is true to us so that we don’t stray from it.  When we become keenly aware that He’s always there, sight unseen, to empower us towards love and good deeds, we will be amazed at what can be accomplished.  Take time this week to be intentional about thinking of His presence in you, and what good He can do through you, regardless as to how you feel. Talk to Him. Ask Him to help you see through someone else’s eyes, that He will turn your anger into forgiveness, that He will turn your blindness into compassion, and He will turn your hate and humiliation of others into love for your fellow man no matter what. No matter how “right” you feel you are, depending on your view, faith expressing itself through love is the only option as a follower of Christ. This isn’t easy. Change is hard.  Likely it will be more akin to a long-distance run, rather than a sprint.

TurnAround. In this season of unrest, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us all, as we heed the biblical truth that all of us are broken, and the heart of man is deceitful. We desperately need help to see that the law of love is the only constructive and beneficial resolution for conflict. Whether you are the sinner, and/or the one sinned against, true peace will only come through humble submission to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in you. Be more aware and think about Him. Ask Him to give you whatever it takes to grow more into the image of Christ. He will faithfully hold your feet and ground you securely….even more so than gravity.