I am not going to write about the election…Well, not directly anyway. Of course you can’t read anything, listen to the radio or simply talk to people and avoid election talk. Irony is everywhere.
On Facebook, I watch as Christian friends reenact SNL’s famous “Point Counterpoint” debate, using sweeping generalities, convenient categorizations and not-so-nice words. I hear stories on the radio about young children who are so upset that their schooling is affected.
So what’s my point? I need the Holy Spirit to come and rest on me.
The Holy Spirit, that often forgotten part of the Holy Trinity, is not only actively disclosing God’s purpose for us in Christ but also in us to bring that purpose to fruition. As we grow in the Spirit, we begin to exhibit and embody the Spirit.
Remember the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness…and…drum roll please…self-control. Say what you will about the first eight, that last one is a doozy.
I find myself confronted frequently with situations that test this fruit to its limit: driving, slow lines, the temptation of ice cream and yes, Facebook postings about the election. The list is really, really long. And if I sit and think about it, the common factors in all of them are, of course, my mindset and me.
My thinking and arguments to support my way of thinking are often automatic. The brain actually creates neuropathways based on repetitive thinking that truly become ruts. Now sometimes this isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve realized as I continue my faith walk that I don’t have very deep “ruts” when it comes to self-control or some of the other fruits of the Spirit.
My patterns of thinking about things, people and issues are usually just that – patterns. They allow me to not have to start at square one each time something new comes up, which can be a good thing. My patterns also allow me to stay focused on important things instead of being enticed by, say, a squirrel running by. This also is usually a good thing.
But if I am really challenged, my patterns often fail. I have a second level of justification ruts that kick in. I’ve built up these rationalizations along the way and carry them with me. I can bring them out to defend my case. They’re my “yeah buts.”
The Holy Spirit carries its own arguments and justifications. They tend to be right to the point and simple as simple can be. They go something like this…
“I can’t believe they just said that.” I think to myself. “What dummies they are.”
“Love one another,” says the Holy Spirit.
“Yeah but,” I think to myself, quite prepared to ignore such a lofty commandment.
“Love one another,” says the Holy Spirit.
What do you say to that? It’s the last thing I want to tackle. To love of course means exhibiting the fruit. Being kind, gentle and patient are all required to love. Self-control is kingpin. It is necessary to stop my thoughts, to allow the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruit. But my patterns haven’t been dug deep enough to become ruts that allow my thoughts to be guided by these fruit.
As luck would have it, this week’s reading in my Systematic Theology class is about the spirit. Author Daniel Migliore says that the Spirit unites. Not just the like-minded, not just with mere power of togetherness or kinship of people of the same race, family, economic class or nation. The Spirit carries the power to form a new community that unites strangers and even former enemies.
I think this is such an appropriate message for right now. Paul says to the Galatians in 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
That is a huge statement. We may think we have some divisions in this country, but trust me when I say that they pale in comparison to what Paul was challenged with between Greek and Jew, or slave and free. The point is, we’ve been here before, folks. And just as we did then, we need the Holy Spirit today.
It’s far easier to allow my thoughts to go down the road comfortably made in my ruts, like bowling lanes with the gutter protectors in place. But the Holy Spirit asks me to consider alternatives, to drop my “yeah but” responses. I am asked to take a whole new path, to renew my mind, to embody Jesus, to love one another as I’ve been loved. It is a tall order. I will fail. I will fall into the ruts as I strive to make new ones. I am human, but I also have the power of the Holy Spirit to guide me. So, come Holy Spirit! Fall afresh on us.