the breath of God

We Believe? – Week 3.
We Believe in God the Holy Spirit…
Teaching Notes by Jeanette Eby from Gathering on October 30th, 2011

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorifed who has spoken through the prophets.”

Reflecting on the “Holy Spirit”, on this part of the Trinity, my own smallness and not-knowing overwhelms me. It is one thing to think about God as the Father and God as the Son – we can picture a “father” and “son” figure in our minds. We can picture Jesus, the Son, who walked this earth. But the Holy Spirit is much more elusive and mysterious… we hear language such as the “inspiration of the Holy Spirit”, or that the Holy Spirit is what “moves” us. God is bigger than us, and while the Holy Spirit is in us and around us, he cannot be put in a box. He cannot be fully grasped. To help me with my own understanding of the Holy Spirit, I began to explore different ways that people describe this part of God’s identity. One is from a sermon by Reverend Lowell E. Grisham in Arkansas:

I’ve spoken before of the Trinity as a Dance of Love: the outpouring of love from the Father in unreserved affection for the Son, and the Son’s complete and full acceptance of the love from the Father, wholly received and wholly returned with a reciprocal love back to the Father. The love between them — the Being ofunifying love that makes them One — is God the Holy Spirit. It is that Love which creates all that is.

I like this idea of the Holy Spirit as the “Being of unifying love”. If this Being unites the Father and the Son, we are also united through the Holy Spirit. We are one with God and with each other – we need each other, we are interdependent. Another description of the Holy Spirit which really resonated with me is written by Henri Nouwen:

When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us. The Greek word for “spirit” ispneuma, which means “breath.” We are seldom aware of our breathing. It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it. The Spirit of God is like our breath. God’s spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. We might not often be aware of it, but without it we cannot live a “spiritual life.” It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy. Let us always pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”

Wow – the breath of God. The breath of God is in us, and when we really open ourselves up to the breath of God, the Being of unifying love, the Holy Spirit, whatever language we choose to use – when we are open to the Spirit’s work in our lives and in the world, we can begin to see miracles in the everyday. We can see glimpses of the Kingdom in a world where there seems to be so much pain and despair.  We begin to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and the lives of those around us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is the stuff that will transform the world.

“It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us”, says Nouwen. I am trying to live a prayerful life, and develop an understanding of prayer that really encompasses everything – not just the quiet times, but the active and social times. If the Spirit of God is in me, it is also in you. It is in my neighbours, and in strangers. Through the Spirit we can come to see our common humanity and share in God’s compassion. When we pray, we are not only opening ourselves to God but also to our fellow human beings. We are reaching out to something beyond ourselves, knowing that we are not the ones in control. We may find ourselves led in directions we never would have imagined. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to see others through God’s eyes; with compassion and without judgment, with love and without fear. We must open our hands – release our clenched fists – to experience this living reality of God in all aspects of our lives.