Written By: Kaci Thomas
When I was 23 years old, I had a conversation that changed the way I understood the Holy Spirit. See, until that point, I hadn’t understood the Holy Spirit as much more than a mascot. My childhood church talked a lot about God, and we obviously talked about Jesus, but I didn’t get a great understanding of how the Holy Spirit fit into the Trinity. He just kinda hung out like a sidekick, I thought. In fact, more charismatic denominations were the butt of jokes in my context, as many who helped raise me in the faith didn’t believe some of the gifts celebrated in charismatic churches were still given by God in modern day.
My mostly Baptist upbringing taught me a lot about Christianity – I had a solid foundation of scripture I’d memorized, and I could tell you every Bible story ever shared in my decades of kids and youth ministry, but my Christianity looked more like a checklist I had to continually complete correctly. I didn’t really have a good grasp on relationship or grace.
This conversation when I was 23 years old, helped me connect the dots. There had been plenty of unexplainable occurrences in my life; times when I had a strong sense of a decision I should make without a lot of logic to back it up, or times when I somehow sensed a truth about someone I had no way of knowing, or times when I kind of “predicted” something correctly. I have memories as early as elementary school where I had these strong “senses” – for lack of a better word, but I always felt crazy trying to talk about them. This conversation at the age of 23 helped me understand that A) I wasn’t crazy, B) Other people had similar experiences, and C) It was the work of the Holy Spirit.
Soon after, I started a new job, where this sense of the Holy Spirit was understood and encouraged by my coworkers and organizational leadership. I learned more about the Holy Spirit from a Biblical standpoint, and my prior experiences were being normalized as I saw them happen again and again, both for myself, and those around me. I learned about Spiritual Formation and the discipline of teaching myself to be attuned to the Spirit’s leading in my life. I understood the Spirit’s act of interceding for me, and why the Spirit is called the “Helper.” I began to truly recognize the voice of God, which is my favorite part of all.
As my Reunion Group discussed the Holy Spirit recently, it was said that without the Spirit being part of the equation, you’re missing out on the real relational aspect of the Christian faith, and something snapped into place for me. My whole childhood, I was told that Jesus came to die because God wanted a relationship with me, but the path I was given to that relationship was lined with rules, formulas, and expectations. I didn’t know how to have a relationship outside of my performance. A relationship built on rules isn’t a relationship at all. Something had been missing, until five years ago, when my eyes were open to the Holy Spirit’s part in all of this.
This was all just five years ago. I’m still new to this. And my Baptist upbringing still makes some of this seem weird to me. The way some people experience the Holy Spirit can still make me nervous because I don’t understand it fully. I am also acutely aware that there can be manipulation in the name of the Spirit. This stuff is tricky. It’s not rules or expectations, it’s a relationship, and relationships are way messier than following a set of rules. But it’s also so much more fulfilling, and the Father, Son and Spirit came so we may have life to the full.
So if the idea of rediscovering the Holy Spirit makes you a little uncomfortable or nervous, I just have to tell you – you’re not alone. Those emotions accompany my excitement as we begin year two together in Acts. There’s so much unknown and abstract about this Holy Spirit stuff. But I fully believe that understanding the Holy Spirit brings us into a deeper relationship with God. In my experience, it’s helped me individualize my relationship and understand that God made me uniquely, and as such, the Father, Son and Spirit interact with me according to my unique design. I’m excited at the thought of a church of individuals who feel fully known by God, and are attuned to His movement in their life. So nerves or not, I hope you’ll join us as we continue to rediscover the Holy Spirit together as a community.