True confession: I have spent most of my life being confused by the Holy Spirit.
As a kid, I had only the barest understanding of this third person of the Trinity. From Scripture, I had a vague image of the Spirit as a dove, or a tongue of flame, or wind; the Spirit seemed to move in quickly, linger memorably, and then dart out again. Beyond that, though, it was one big mystery.
When Jesus talks about the Spirit with His Apostles, I suspect they were confused as well. His words seem so very abstract, sketching broad outlines of a picture that only time would reveal in all its colorful detail. I imagine the Apostles exchanging confused glances, no one wanting to be the one to raise his hand and ask for a more thorough explanation (or maybe I’m just projecting here).
But when I was in my mid-twenties, reengaging with my Catholic faith after years away, I began to understand the Spirit in an entirely new way. As I learned more about charisms, spiritual gifts, I started to understand that the Spirit has gifted every one of us with a unique ability to bring God’s goodness and love into the world. These gifts vary widely; one person may be gifted in teaching, another in encouragement, another in art, another in leadership. I started to see the Spirit operating in my own life when I thought deliberately and consciously about what my own gifts were, and how, by using them, I was helping to bring a little more of God’s goodness into the world.
And I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of others’ gifts. My soul has been cracked open by beautiful pieces of music. My knowledge of the world has been deepened by the teaching of others. In emotionally trying times, people with the gift of wisdom have thrown me the lifeline of a new perspective. All those experiences have helped me see that there are a million ways that the Spirit is present in the world, guiding us to do great things in the service of others.
So when I think of the Holy Spirit now, my default image is no longer a dove or a tongue of fire. But I do still think of movement. I think of the dynamic energy of God, pouring into the world through every one of us.
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When have you encountered the Spirit working through someone else? Look for it today.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. You can find out more about her here.