Amazing things happen when I’m teaching Bible study at the jail. Things I’ve never thought of spring to mind, connections I’ve never seen before suddenly leap off the page…
Have you seen You’ve Got Mail? Kathleen Kelly and “NY152” have been emailing each other and she’s crazy about him, even though they’ve never met face to face. Each day she wakes up eager to check her email, fairly confident he will have written and eager to read what he has to say. She says: “What will NY152 say today, I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve got mail.” Well, this is me on Thursdays. I go to my class at the jail with that same sense of eager anticipation. I’m learning to trust that He’ll show up while I’m there (the girls are learning to expect it too!) and I find myself wondering each week, “What will the Holy Spirit say today?!”
The rub is that it isn’t as simple as obvious as an email in my inbox. Often I don’t even realize it’s happened until it’s passed. After class one of the girls pulls me aside and cries and tells me how that spoke to her in a powerful way. Or we’ll pause to read a verse that I feel prompted to read, but see no reason to read…and then later we find that the verse ties everything together. It happens in crazy ways and it’s different every time…but always I find myself saying something I have never really thought about before. It’s unplanned, unscripted and unexpected…and that seems to be the Holy Spirit’s trademark.
Last week, as we were talking, it happened again. An illustration came to me out. of. the. blue. (And then it was so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of it before…which is so very like Him.) We were actually talking about how to know when it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to us. How do I know if it’s the Holy Spirit that shows up in our Bible study, or just my own ideas? How do I know if God is prompting me and/or speaking to me? How do I distinguish His voice from my own or worse, the enemy’s?
That’s when THIS came to me:
It hit me, this is how I treat the Holy Spirit. “Are YOU the Holy Spirit?” I ask Him. He keeps on “singing”, a.k.a. nudging me, being all Spirit-God-like, whispering things to my soul that are completely in line with Scripture, but I want more. I want a confirmation. The whole being-in-line-with-Scripture thing isn’t good enough for me. I want more… I want writing on the wall…and even still I’d probably ask the hand writing on the wall, “Are you the Holy Spirit?” So, just like the Three Amigos, I keep asking and He keeps on singing. He doesn’t stop to confirm the obvious for me. He just keeps on being the Spirit and trusts me to figure it out. Finally, I find myself saying (a bit annoyed, if I’m honest), “Fine. I guess I’ll just have to assume you’re the Holy Spirit.” And then I listen.
Now, the Bible does say to test the Spirits, so I’m not advocating for an uncensored acceptance, but on the other hand, I’m saying that I am beginning to actually trust the promises of God, that He HAS sent me a Helper, His Spirit, that lives inside of me and actually wants to communicate with me and make me more and more like Him. I’m just saying that I’ve spent most of my life looking for the singing bush, and then, when I find a bush that sings, I’m not convinced that I’ve found it. “Are you the singing bush?” (Shouldn’t it be obvious!?) If I was Moses, I’d be asking, “Are you the burning bush?” If I saw the writing on the wall, I’d be asking, “Is this the writing on the wall?” And when God’s Spirit nudges me, I’ve spent a lifetime asking, “Are you the Holy Spirit?”
I feel like it’s easier when I’m in the jail to trust that the Holy Spirit is speaking, in part because it’s safe. He’s not asking me to do anything risky or awkward. I feel a nudge to read a verse that seems irrelevant to the topic—what have I got to lose? It’s still God’s word and if it doesn’t apply to anyone, well, ok, we’ll go on to the next one. But, as I obey in these little things, these areas of safety, and see (usually after the fact) that there was a point to it and that it was the Holy Spirit, I gain confidence in other areas. I am wasting less time asking “Are you the singing bush?” and I’m getting less annoyed when He doesn’t stop singing to confirm it for me.
Instead of acting like one of the Three Amigos and asking, “Are you the Holy Spirit?” I’m learning to live a little more Kathleen Kelly and ask, “What will the Holy Spirit say today?”