Midwives Of The Holy Spirit #2
The ideas for this series of posts have grown out of a training seminar Mike teaches called Power With A Purpose. If you’re interested in finding out more about it drop him a line at [email protected]
I grew up Catholic. When I prayed I made the sign of the cross. Using my right hand, I touched my forehead at the mention of “the Father”; my chest at the mention of “the Son”; and the left shoulder on the word “Holy” and the right shoulder on the word “Ghost.” That’s what we called the Holy Spirit in those days, the Holy Ghost… As a kid I kept on picturing myself praying to Casper the friendly ghost (be nice, I was just a kid). Which was weird and not very helpful. Years later, when I became a follower of Jesus and was told that relating to the Spirit was really, really important, that image of Casper would pop-up in my head and I’d ask myself, how can I possibly hit it off with a ghost?
The idea of relating to an unseen, elusive, ghostly power is problematic for lots of believers. To the modern scientific materialistic mindset, which affects us all, it appears make-believe and cartoonish. It has little capacity for comprehending this divine person who has no body, ultimate power and is to be revered. To deal with this, some Christians have simply suspended their reason and adopted silly, Casper-ways of relating to the Spirit that have led them into excess and weirdness. Others have gone the other way. Even though they don’t deny the Spirit’s existence they steer clear of any meaningful interaction with him.
So for discussion sake and at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, how do we relate to a ghost? How can we interact with the Holy Spirit in a practical and constructive way so that he can be experienced as good and helpful? Well I’ve already mentioned being naturally supernatural in my previous post. That’s big. But in addition there’s another thing I’ve found major. When relating with a ghost you have to pay attention. Which by the way is skill number one for becoming a midwife of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is subtle. He hardly ever shouts or makes a big splash, so paying attention is critical. St. Paul wrote, “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open…” Watch and pray. This takes a certain amount of awareness and attentiveness that, if you habitually operate on autopilot, as most do, can be hard getting used to.
Modern life is loud and crowded. It has us on the go and in a rush all the time. We’re used to tuning out the noise and the congestion. Without thinking we carry out many of our daily routines on autopilot. We automatically overlook the little things going on around us – the particulars – which is where God at work much of the time but we miss because we’re not paying attention. It could be a whisper, impression, a fleeting thought, a nudge, a tug, a glance. Remember Elijah and the wind, earthquake and the fire?
This especially goes for listening, which is skill number two for Spirit midwives. Autopilot is bad for listening. You can have 20-20 hearing and still not be a good listener. Paying attention means actively listening. Not just to people but to God. We have to develop the ability to listen in two directions simultaneously: To people and to God. Francis McNutt commented, “Give one ear to the person and your best ear to God.” This takes a certain prayerfulness and some getting used to but with practice it can become as second nature to you as autopilot.
Jesus didn’t live on autopilot. He paid attention. With the help of the Holy Spirit he lived prayerfully with his eyes open, wide-awake, present and attentive to people and what his Father was doing in the moment so he could cooperate and join in. This brought him, his Father and all involved, blessing and joy. He wants to share this kind of life with us. But that means we can’t live with our eyes and ears closed anymore. For the most part we have to ditch autopilot. We have to learn to get along with the Holy Ghost and adopt a Spirit-piloted life.