I thought that last post was the end of this blog for a while, but even if no one reads this I need to get these thoughts out. Just as a disclaimer, I think that this blog will no longer serve as a way to let my friends and family know what I'm up to, but will now become a way for me to write down my thoughts. There are infinite ways in my life where I see the impact that my trip had on me. Everything, I mean absolutely everything is different now. Some of those things are incredible and encouraging changes, ones that I would never reverse, but some are heartbreaking and require a daily decision to change or work through. I have to daily check and make sure that I am not showing an attitude of superiority or judgement because many around me have not had an experience like the one I had. I also have to check myself and remember that not everyone is in a place of incredible growth and renewal as I am, some people are stuck in a place of complacency, even as I was for so long.
One thing that has been radically changed since my return from the Dominican is the way that I view the Holy Spirit. While I was gone, I read the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan, which talks all about how we have forgotten to teach about, to listen to the Holy Spirit. Growing up, I always knew that there was a third part of the Holy Trinity along with the Father and Son, but I never knew what the purpose of the Holy Spirit was. I heard a sermon recently where the pastor talked about the Holy Spirit, saying that what we normally call a "concsience" is really the Holy Spirit speaking truth to us and leading us in the right and healthy direction. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us when we feel guilt, shame, or regret, but also when we have an indescribable urging. My mentor and I talk about how we know it is the Holy Spirit leading us because he often asks us to do things completely out of our comfort zone or normal action. I think the first time that I am absolutely sure that I felt the Holy Spirit leading me was when I asked my mentor to begin meeting with me. I ws terrified, but I couldn't leave class that night without talking to her. Hands shaking, eyes tearing, I walked up to her after class and asked her for help. If any of you know me really at all, you know that I hate asking for help. The Holy Spirit asked me to do something that I did not want to do, and I totally see the fruit and blessings that have already resulted from that relationship. Looking back, I would say that the first time I talked to her about myself about a year and a half ago, I say it was one of the "Holy Moments" that Francis Chan talks about. A moment where heaven meets earth and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, even if only for a moment. Beautiful.
The topic of the Holy Spirit has always been one that is difficult for me to grasp, because as we read in 1 Kings 19:11-13, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in quiet whispers, not on billboards or through megaphones. I so struggle with the idea that I have not heard God's voice, it frustrates me that I have asked for it and it has not been given to me. I mean, I'm not asking God to move a mountain, but simply to hear a whisper saying "Beloved, I am here". I will be honest in saying that I often find myself jealous of people who can say that they have. I had some beautiful conversations this week about what it looks like to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. For me, it may look like gradually developing the ability to discern between my thoughts and the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me inside of my own mind. I'll admit, I'm a little discouraged by the idea that this will happen at time, because I am the perfect example of what our instant society creates, but I know it will be a skill well-worth developing.
I so often doubt the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life, but since returning from my adventure, it seems almost impossible to ignore the changes that have taken place within me. I care. That's different. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. Before, I was so content to settle for "good", but now that's not even an option. I want to be better. I long to be closer to my Abba, to read my Bible, to have beautiful honest conversation, to wake up early to pray. One of the ways I am continuing to learn about the Holy Spirit working in my life is that I am in a Bible study on my college campus. We are reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament and discussing each time that Scripture records the activity of the Holy Spirit, which, by the way, is all the time. It's been so beneficial for me to feel comfortable asking questions in my group and to really take a deeper look at what God is showing us. I am in a group with a professor, and four other students, both girls and boys. It has been such a great thing to be able to study God's Word in a group that is diverse like this. All of us have different backgrounds, which allow us to each bring out own view to the table.
This leads me to the next thing I have been experiencing in a whole new way: COMMUNITY. What a beautiful idea. I learned so much about community in the Dominican, and I have been looking for ways to build Godly community here at school, which is not an easy task. Being in a Bible Study is a beautiful type of learning community where we offer our own opinions. I also have been blessed with a couple of incredibly unexpected friendships. It's so refreshing to be able to be honest with another person and to know that there is no judgement. We spend time asking difficult questions, ones that are not acceptable to ask in certain Christian circles. I have also been learning that community isn't always easy and wonderful, but that is part of the beauty of it: that it is sometimes difficult but there is such reward when we stick with it and continue to invest in relationships, becuase people matter.
I went to a show in South Bend last week with a friend. It completely rocked my world, again. Dan Smith from Listener and Derek Zanetti from The Homeless Gospel Choir visited us and shared words between songs. Dan was talking about difficult circumstances when he shared with us that when we are faced with situations that are difficult, testy friendships, difficult classes, non-ideal work situations. When we have these rough places in our lives what we should do is to "LOVE.. UNTIL IT LOVES YOU BACK". Wow. Over the past 10 or so days this has made itself true to me in so many ways. This idea requires that I take an active part in my life instead of sitting back with a "woe is me" attitude complaining about everything in my life that is not easy. We have never been promised an easy life, I don't know why we all get so consumed with that desire. But in those moments when things are hard and a certain person requires and extra dose of patience, or another thing you do at work goes unnoticed, love. Love it until it loves you back.
Because that's what it's all about right? love? You're probably all thinking of that certain popular Beatles song in your heads right now, but as I read through the Bible this year and look especially into the life of Jesus, that's what the Gospel message is all about. I have a friend who is doing a research project with homeless individuals in South Bend, and he could tell you so many stories and proofs that what those people truly need is not a hot meal or a place to stay warm at night, but what their hearts really desire is to be loved, to have a person to talk to and care for them. I went last weekend to meet and hang out with some of those individuals at a homeless shelter, and I was struck by the beauty of their friendships. They look out for one another and care for each other dearly. Love.
Another thing that I heard at the show last week which has been running through my head is something that Derek said. He said that there is so much in this world that we could be worried about, that we could spread ourselves to thin failing to fix. But the truth of it is that we can only do so much, and that we should start with trying "TO BE THE BEST SELVES WE CAN BE". This isnt' some selfish desire to focus only on our own problems or successes. The result that I see from this in my own life is that once I begin to work on myself (the plank in my eye), then I begin to desire to see those around me do the same (the speck in theirs). Once I begin to experience what it looks like to be close to God, to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking truth and direction into my life, there is no doubt in my mind that I will want others to experience that as well. I have already begun to have difficult conversations out of love for my friends and family, with the desire to see them be their best selves.
I never knew that two 30 minute sets of music could change and effect my thoughts so dramatically, but they did. Those were Holy Moments in my life.