A deeper journey
You may be noticing a change in voices over the course of A Deeper Journey. The first three reflections were offered by Donna Hatasaki. Last week was offered by Tracey Meeks. Today we hear from Daniel Lai. Next week we hear from Justin McRoberts. All four are members of The Good Way team. We pray that the variety of voices helps you hear from the Voice deep within you who calls you His beloved.
I had moved in a few weeks before my wife prior to the wedding, and now she was trying to move her things into our cozy little house. But in the time I was living there by myself I had gradually filled up all the empty space in the house with my things, leaving none for her. As she gently pressed for any space, saying things like “What if we move this?” or “Can I put mine here instead?” I found myself getting irritated and pushing back: “Well I already have THAT there!” or “I guess I can move that if you really want.” Finally, she looked at me and said sadly, “There is no space for me here.” The words hit my soul like a freight train, and God granted me a flood of awareness: by forgetting to hold space for my wife I had effectively shut her out of what was supposed to be our home together.
Thus we effectively shut God out of what is supposed to be our life together. Sometimes we do this intentionally, but most times it happens unintentionally; empty space, if it does not have a purpose, sooner or later tends to get filled up with something, usually whatever is most convenient.
Holding space for the Holy Spirit seems like a wasteful thing to do, like intentionally not filling space in your closet. We even have a saying for it: “That’s a waste of space.”
This was their last time all together. John 13-17 details the evening; the weightiness of Jesus’ actions and words are unmistakable.
After dinner (in John 14), Jesus tries to explain his approaching death and departure to his friends. They are understandably troubled and confused. They have lots of questions: Where are you going? How do we get there? Why are you doing this?
I am comforted by these questions because they are the very questions I find myself asking God time and again. If you are like me, take heart, for we are in good company! Followers of God from Sarah to Mary have had similar questions:
Where are you?
What are you doing?
Why are you doing this?
How can this be?
Take a moment to pause.
Are God’s actions (or his inaction) troubling or confusing you? Do you have questions for him? Give voice to those feelings, thoughts, and questions and say them out loud to God now. Know that he has time and space for all of your questions, all of your feelings and all of your thoughts.
We love this. Their questions are our favorite part of the whole movie experience because we get to watch them think, learn and express themselves. During a complicated part of a movie we take extra time to listen and explain. During a sad or scary part we hold them and tell them that it all works out in the end, for we know how the movie turns out.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”
The Greek word Jesus uses here is Paraclete, which means “the One called alongside.”
In English it has been translated into…
“And if many of us were asked what name we would give to the person who stepped in for us in an emergency situation, I think we would be most apt to call that person ‘the true friend.’”
A true friend, Bruner explains, is someone who encourages and urges you, someone who comforts and helps you, someone who stands up for you and gives you wise counsel; but a true friend is also someone who is willing to tell you the truth, even if that truth is difficult or uncomfortable.
How opportune for us! There may be nothing we need more for this time and place in history than the Holy Spirit to help us know what is true!
Take a moment to pause.
Please stand up for me …
Please counsel me …
Please encourage me …
Please comfort me …
Please help me …
Please defend me ...
Please lead me to truth …
His time on Earth is running out. Luckily for the disciples, the Holy Spirit will continue teaching them:
“But the True Friend, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
Jesus says that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to help us remember Him. Thus in listening to the Holy Spirit we are reminded of Jesus and are in turn re-membered and made whole (see reflection 1 of A Deeper Journey). In the course of living our daily lives, it is easy to forget the truth about ourselves and Jesus, and thus become spiritually dis-membered. The Holy Spirit puts us back together. Bruner describes it beautifully:
“The Son comes representing the Father. The Spirit comes representing the Son. In receiving the Spirit we have the whole triune God with us. We are home.”
Our job, then, is to hold space for the Holy Spirit to work in our souls. We have the Holy Spirit; Jesus tells us that the True Friend lives with us and in us (John 14:17). Yet we rarely give Him space to work. We tend to fill up all the space with activity and noise. He cannot direct us because we are already doing. We cannot hear Him because we are already talking. He is waiting for space to act, for He is unintrusive. The True Friend came as a dove, not an eagle. The True Friend was not found in the windstorm, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the gentle whisper.
Pause once more, to breathe and pray. In fact, pause your day. (Do kids come with a pause button? Mine don’t. If you have kids underfoot, do the best you can …)
Pause your worship music or your podcast.
Pause your phone by silencing it and putting it away.
Pause your laptop by closing it.
Pause whatever is playing on the TV.
Pause the running to-do list in your head.
Pause the words you are speaking out loud or saying to yourself.
Remember that both the Hebrew and Greek words for “Spirit” also mean “breath.”
The Spirit is our breath.
The Holy Spirit is our breath of life.
Breathe in deeply His goodness and His grace.
Breathe in deeply His truth.
As you breathe, you can pray the words of Samuel:
One more deep breath,
Nice and slow.
Receive this benediction:
Go forth full of the Breath of Life,
Full of the Holy Spirit,
Your True Friend,
Who is with you always.
Henceforth may we be
People of the pause,
Who hold space for the Spirit,
Who are led, taught and
Re-membered by Him.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans — I will come to you” (John 14:16-18, NLT).
Here, I believe, Jesus addresses the main fear of His disciples upon hearing that He would be leaving them: abandonment. The word carries with it deep hurt that pierces the soul:
YOU LEFT ME.
HOW COULD YOU?
I TRUSTED YOU!
Take a moment to breathe with the Holy Spirit, deep cleansing breaths. Allow yourself to be re-membered by the Spirit. Let the Spirit remind you of the peace of Jesus.
Now reflect on these questions (perhaps one will stand out more than the others) ...
What is your main fear? What is your deep hurt? What is the wound to your soul?
Or maybe you are in a different state of being today. Then instead reflect on the following ...
What is your great hope? What is your deep joy? What is your great gift?
What has the Spirit brought to mind? Speak of these things with the Spirit. If you are willing, speak them out loud, for there is power in the spoken word.
Remember that the Spirit is always with you and will never abandon you.
As you continue your day or evening, remember to be different from the world in this
way: look for the Holy Spirit. Watch for her movements, for as U2 sang in their song
entitled "Mysterious Ways" (which many believe is about the Holy Spirit), “She moves in
Dale Bruner opts for the feminine rendering of the Holy Spirit in his book co-authored
with William Horden, "The Holy Spirit: Shy Member of the Trinity" (page 110). Ruach, the Hebrew word for Spirit used in the Old Testament, is feminine (she). Pneuma, the Greek word for Spirit used in the Gospel of John, the earliest Christians continued the Hebraic tradition of understanding the Holy Spirit as mainly feminine, speaking of the Holy Spirit as "Mother." This tradition carried on to Origen (cc. 200 A.D.) to John Wesley (cc. 1700 A.D.) to Bruner (present day), amongst others. In this reflection, "he" and "she" are used interchangeably.
“I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative — that is, the Holy Spirit — he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:25-27, NLT).
The peace of Christ comes via the Spirit. This is His main gift. It is a gift that the world cannot give. It is the answer to our troubles and our fears.
Imagine having peace of mind and heart. A mind that can rest from worrying, from contingency-planning, even from devising creative solutions and possibilities. A heart free from anger, from holding grudges, from the need to get even or be proven right, free to love and desire goodness for everyone, even yourself.
Ask the Spirit for this kind of peace. Imagine getting it as a gift; open your hands as you pray as a symbol of your receiving it. Become peaceful in your body and mind as a sign to your soul. Sit comfortably, maybe even lie down. Breathe slowly and calmly. Close your eyes to prevent distractions. Quiet your mind and its rapid-fire thoughts by praying the words of Jesus: “My Peace I give to you.”
May the peace of Christ overflow in your mind and heart today.
“But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry” (John 15:26-27, NLT).
The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Jesus so that we ourselves can also testify about Him. We in Young Life are familiar with testimonies. I remember being a work crew boss and teaching work crew kids how to give their testimony in five minutes. What a wonderful exercise for us now: What is your five-minute testimony about Jesus today? Not necessarily how you came to faith, but what has Jesus been doing in your life lately? What gifts has He given to you? How has He helped you? Where is He leading you? How is He challenging you? How is He healing you? Spend five minutes testifying about Jesus, either to yourself, in writing or in prayer.
As you continue your day or evening, may the testimony of God’s work in your past and present illuminate your future.
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:5-7, NLT).
Some things are sad in the moment yet turn out for the best. Such is Jesus’ departure from the disciples, for it opens the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to come. Jesus’ words must have been unimaginable for the disciples: “How can it be good that You are leaving? How can it be good that You are dying?”
Today, as we emerge from a pandemic that has wrought such sadness, anger and heartbreak, we need Jesus to help us imagine the future. In His great wisdom, God created human beings with the ability to imagine. We use this gift a lot when we are children, and then gradually less and less as we get older. We can hear the gentle rebuke of Jesus for our underestimation of the power of childlike imagination in His words, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
In his acclaimed book “The Prophetic Imagination,” biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann describes the prophetic function of imagination:
“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing … Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.”
In our passage for today, Jesus assumes His prophetic role and engages in, as Brueggemann would say, the “ministry of imagination,” describing a future reality to His disciples that they cannot conceive of yet. In this lies our hope for the world and for ourselves: the imagination of God that sees the world and its people as we could be.
Let’s imagine with God today …
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you imagine as Jesus does.
What is the best future (one that God would agree with) that you can imagine?
Take a few minutes to become like a child and use the fullness of your imagination. Imagine what God wants for you, for your family, for your community. Let your imagination flow and expand, down to the smallest detail or out to the greatest expanse. You can write it down if you want to.
Ask the Lord to give you His imagination and His vision. If goodness and healing seem unimaginable to you, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to God’s truth, and take solace in the fact that God often turns the greatest sadness and the darkest wreckage into the greatest beauty.
“I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand. The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn't speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking my message and telling it to you. Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I have said that the Spirit takes my message and tells it to you.” — (John 16:12-15, Contemporary English Version)
When my youngest son Henry was almost two years old, he was badly bitten on the face by a dog. We rushed him, crying and bloody, to the emergency room where they were going to stitch the wounds on his face and lips. The doctor did not want to use anesthesia because of how young Henry was, meaning he would have to be awake while getting stitched. I remember looking at my already terrified boy and trying to explain to him what was about to happen, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to understand. The doctor began to stitch and I held my son down on the hospital bed as he screamed and thrashed, crying for help. Although it was not life-threatening (thankfully the doctor did a masterful job stitching and Henry has only tiny light scars today), it was definitely soul-piercing for both me and my son.
I imagine this is how Jesus must have felt talking to His disciples on the night He would be betrayed — knowing that He would be killed the next day, knowing they would be afraid and sad, wanting to tell them so much more about the purpose of His death, but also knowing that they could not understand yet. So Jesus relies on the inner teacher, the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus saw the need to exercise self-restraint and create space for the activity of the Spirit in the lives of His disciples, then how much more should we? It is not always our job, then, to teach, lead, guide or give advice to another person; it is primarily the Holy Spirit’s job. Thankfully He is much wiser than we are!
One healthy exercise is to release the need to teach, lead, guide or advise others. This is hard for Young Life people because we are largely successful precisely BECAUSE we are good at doing these things. Yet the Holy Spirit can do it so much better than we can. Here is an exercise that can help us surrender to the Holy Spirit: palms down, palms up.
Begin with your palms face down and open. Surrender that which is not yours to carry: perhaps convincing someone of the truth, convicting someone of their mistakes, guiding someone on their spiritual journey or predicting what will happen in the future.
Let the Holy Spirit fulfill His role and release to Him that which is His.
Then turn your palms open and facing up. Pray for things that the Holy Spirit gives — e.g., truth, peace, solidarity, conviction, comfort, help or intercession.
Receive these things with open hands and close your hands to take hold of them.
Do this again, palms down to release, palms up to receive, until you feel you are done.
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” — (John 16:32-33, NIV).
These are the last words of Jesus’ final teaching to His disciples before His death. His words allude to four things:
1) Failure. As followers of Jesus we will all fail, in some form or fashion. We are not perfect and we will fall short. The prospect of failure is scary and uncomfortable for most of us. Yet this is a natural part of following Jesus. Jesus is upfront about it because He wants us to have peace.
2) Peace. This is one of Jesus’ main desires for His followers, that we would have peace, despite our failures, despite the ominous situations we may find ourselves in.
3) Trouble. Jesus is realistic about life and its hardships. We may make trouble for ourselves; we may be beset by troubles despite our best efforts. Trouble, it seems, is a part of life. Again, Jesus is upfront and honest about the situations His followers will face.
4) Courage. “Take heart” means “Be brave!” Be brave, for Jesus has overcome this world and all its trouble. Walk forward bravely and full of courage, for the Holy Spirit is always with you!
Read the passage again slowly a few times. What part speaks to you the most? Perhaps you need to be honest about a failure. Perhaps you need the peace of Christ to be real in your life.
Perhaps you are experiencing trouble. Perhaps you need to be brave. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and give you what you need. Afterall, that’s His specialty!
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