By starting with 'Creativity' and moving on to 'the Comforter', perhaps I'm choosing the nice cushy areas first. Perhaps I should be getting my teeth into areas like 'baptism of the Spirit' and 'insulting the Spirit' with more gusto. All the same, I would like what I write here to reflect my personal journey through all these passages, and for me, I needed to hear what the Spirit is actually like before I could get into the "deep" stuff. To trust someone, you need to know them first. To let go of inhibitions and ask them to use you as they wish, you need to be sure they are going to be there for you. So here I am writing about the Spirit who is not just a friend and a comforter, but the Friend and the Comforter.
Here is the passage that really summed it up for me:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:25-27
Two of my favourite passages ever. I don't know where I'd got this idea but perhaps in the past the Spirit seemed frightening to me. I don't mean the fear of the Lord sort of way which is positive, but a way in which he was the one I expected to be always convicting and berating and stopping you from doing things you wanted to do. A negative power, a 'do not' power. But here, the Spirit is a bearer of good news, a comforter, an emancipator - someone who moves people to wholehearted praise. An entirely positive person, a do-er instead of a do-not-er. And from the second passage, the Spirit brings peace to us and we no longer have to fear, because he is like a parent to us:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16 (Another favourite passage!)
Another passage that made me quite relieved:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27
Through such passages of Scripture, I have finally learnt the niceness of God. I know I've been writing under that title for quite a while now, and to be honest with myself, it's probably wrong to say 'finally' which implies completeness, because I'm not sure if we could ever completely understand the niceness of God. My point is, the Spirit is close to us like a father if we let him be, and the result is he knows us, he understands us, and he allows us to be frail human beings who are not always sure if we want to pray or what. I no longer have to freak out that I'm not like one of those scary superhuman Christians who prays for five hours before breakfast, but I can take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this world, bereft of Jesus like an orphan, even if I was the only Christian in New Zealand. It is from this starting point that I hope I can start allowing the Spirit much more space in my life.
A side note: this weekend after I wrote that angry last post, I had a big conversation with my brother-in-law and sister, who are also acquainted with the person I was writing about. I ended up bursting into tears in the kitchen with my brother-in-law and saying all the stuff that has been worrying/annoying/angering me about the issue of healing - namely, if lack of physical healing means lack of Christian-ness and lack of connectedness to the Holy Spirit, why did my mother die, who was probably the awesomest Christian I knew? And why do Christians make such a big deal of healing anyway? Why do we make death into such a big scary thing when everything we read in the Bible tells us it's not?
My brother told me about a conversation he once had with a guy who was very into the charismatic movement and who used to hold meetings where he would heal people. One time, a sick woman stood up, said "I feel better", went to the bathroom, and died. And his response to this was not to say - I've failed! God has failed! - but to ask the question, "What if her death was the most complete healing of all? What if that was the real miracle? Maybe by taking her away, God was healing her more completely than can be imagined while alive."
That question has been hanging around me ever since - and I have come to think it's the right question.