I am a visual learner. I have to see something to learn it, and too often, to believe it. On top of that, I don’t like scary things. I remember in third grade being upset that my birthday was in October. Everything in the stores at that time of year was about witches and goblins. (Why couldn’t I have a pretty birthday like my sister’s on May Day?) Consequently, I never liked orange and black, and I almost turned down a full scholarship to Oklahoma State just because of their school colors. To make matters worse, I don’t like uncertainty and I’m a controller. What does any of that have in common? Not much for most people, but for me, it means that I have a difficult time with the Holy Spirit.
I grew up a little afraid of the guy. My grandmother called Him the Holy Ghost, so right away we were off on the wrong foot. Even all of my adult life I have struggled with this promised one, the one Jesus said He was leaving as an advocate, a counselor, a comforter, a strengthener. In the 14th chapter of John, Jesus tried to explain the Spirit to his apostles. Basically, Jesus was saying, You shouldn’t be upset that I’m leaving. I’m sending Another and He is amazing. Because God IN you is so much better than God WITH you. My heart knew that this Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. But my head was reluctant, and a little scared. Sure, I wanted the Holy Spirit to change me. I wanted to accept whatever He had to offer. But how? At what cost? For me, it took heart failure to start to embrace this Spirit and His gifts…on His terms and for His purposes.
My mother is the best gift giver I know. Growing up, we didn’t have money to buy everything we saw on our 3-channel console TV, but somehow she would get the gifts we didn’t know we wanted or needed. Once we started to use them for a while, we realized these were what we should have asked for all along. One year I was into Barbies, big time. My mom made clothes for them to match my own. (I still don’t know how she got those tiny sleeves through her sewing machine.) For Christmas that year, I wanted the Barbie Dream House. Pink and purple plastic paradise, please. What I got instead was a kitchen cabinet from our recent remodel, doors removed. It was a two-level, four-room home with carpet and wallpaper and all sorts of unique furnishings. It was supposed to be from Santa, but it had my mom’s fingerprints all over it. Thing is, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get the Mattel model. But to my surprise, my friends loved it! Eventually I came to love it, too. Years later, that unique and special house was in perfect condition and my own children played with it. Long after my friends’ plastic versions had hit the landfill.
The Holy Spirit is a giver of unique and unexpected gifts as well. Those gifts might be what you ultimately want to have, or be, or exude in your life. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just download them to you, He develops them in you. Over time. And herein lies the rub that can start to get painful in a hurry.
I can honestly say that my pain has been well worth it. The gifts I have received (and I’m still developing) mainly are the fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience. I don’t know if those were meant to be in order of importance, but they sure were for me. My initial diagnosis brought me a realization of the love I share with God, church family, my own family, and my husband. It was always there, but it became expressed. I’ve already written in several posts about unexpected joy that resulted from difficult circumstances. And just when we needed it most, the protective peace wrapped us like a warm blanket. Patience has also been a huge new gift for me as I have learned to trust and accept God’s plan, which I will write about next week.
I wish I could claim that I was wise enough to have asked for these gifts. I didn’t. Most times instead of purpose, I would rather have had pleasure, which is a cheap, plastic, mass-produced substitute. Rather than the lovingly-designed, one-of-a-kind treasure the Spirit had in mind. No doubt, those unexpected and unrequested gifts have become some of the best ones in my life. Even as scary as they have been at times.