Learning to Hear the Holy Spirit

I remember being in church as a kid and hearing about the Holy Spirit. The name was always mentioned in connection with God and Jesus. I didn’t grow up in an overtly charismatic church, so the Holy Spirit wasn’t blatantly mentioned in our doctrine, practices of worship or conversation. But, I’ve started to recognize how often I saw expressions of the Spirit long before I had language for Her. I saw expressions of the Spirit long before I had language for Her. Click To Tweet

At 21, I started attending a Vineyard Church. My journey with the Vineyard started to give me language, room, and space to grow in some of the things I already knew about the Spirit. I learned that the Holy Spirit is not only talked about but also experienced.  

Furthermore, the Vineyard started to show me that some of my wiring, often the parts I always thought were just quirks, were actually something more important. My giftings were not always responded to or recognized in some of the more non-charismatic evangelical traditions.

So as we look to our Awakening Gathering, I’m excited to share with you a bit of my journey with the Holy Spirit. My journey with Vineyard has given me balance, keeping my evangelical foundations but embracing mystery and charisma. Often the parts I thought were quirks were actually more important. Click To Tweet

It’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a beauty to be known, danced with and embraced, as much as a theological concept to understand. When we turn the Holy Spirit into a formula, we miss that She is dynamic, mysterious. After all, Her role is to provide us with insight, wisdom and a mind that transcends earthly logic. Theology will not contain Her. The truth is the Holy Spirit does what She wants, when She wants and how She wants. Theology will not contain Her. Click To Tweet

My First Encounter with the Holy Spirit

Generally, when I engage with a new idea or concept, I’m timid. I have to test it, scoping its edges and curves, prodding for flaws or holes. I’ll ask a thousand questions and then, tentatively give it a shot. My approach to going to a Vineyard Church was no different.

In the back of the small church, I sat and listened, observing. The songs were new, the people were excited, and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. I remember the pastor walking up front and welcoming the Holy Spirit. He laid out the way the evening would go: some worship, a break for prayer and some silence, waiting to see if the Spirit would say anything to them tonight.

I remember looking around trying to figure out what people were waiting for. I was confused. Everyone else seemed to be aware of something I wasn’t. But I sat in the back on the floor and watched. I’m an introvert (especially in large, new groups), so I didn’t mind being on my own in the back. I wanted to observe. Then it happened. I still don’t have adequate language. But after some prayer and worship I had this feeling. There was a tangible heaviness in the room. Imagine what it would be like to walk through frozen fog. Everyone else seemed to be aware of something I wasn’t. Click To Tweet

I looked around, trying to keep myself calm. Was I the only one sensing this? Everyone else was acting normal. I left to go to the bathroom. I remember telling myself “If the bathroom feels normal, then it’s just that room. Or maybe it’s me.”  The bathroom was fine. I looked in the mirror and convinced myself to walk back into the sanctuary. I was half convinced I was just crazy. My very logical brain didn’t have words for what was going on.

Even amid the confusion, I knew the something was good. The confusion wasn’t based in fear, rather an inviting curiosity. There was something different about how this community interacted with God. I knew God was inviting me to discover more of who He was. Even amid the confusion, I knew the something was good. Click To Tweet

I kept showing up at Vineyard events. Each time I heard the phrase “Come, Holy Spirit” I would watch, as everyone else seemed to sense something was going on. What was I missing? It took a couple of years before I started to understand what I was looking for and sensing.

Learning the Language of the Holy Spirit

I think this is where some of us get into a tangle about how to incorporate the Holy Spirit into our theologies, lives and worship. Unfortunately, because of Her mystical ways the Holy Spirit has been used manipulatively, or in dramatic ways of fanfare and performance. Our proclivity to not trust fleeting emotion makes us wary of many of the ways the Spirit is supposed to appear.  

The Vineyard USA Statement of faith reads:

We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is our abiding Helper, Teacher, and Guide. We believe in the filling or the empowering of the Holy Spirit, often conscious experience, for ministry today. We believe in the present ministry of the Spirit and in the exercise of all of the biblical gifts of the Spirit. We practice the laying on of hands for the empowering of the Spirit, for healing, and for recognition and empowering of those whom God has ordained to lead and serve the Church.

What I appreciated about my experience was the interaction without the fanfare. But, I also I knew God understood the way I was wired and I needed the tangible experience to push me past my intellectual understanding. One of the things that drew me to The Vineyard was the balance between experience and understanding that they strive for in engaging with the Holy Spirit. We believe everyone can hear, understand and interact with the Holy Spirit–or as we say “Everybody Gets to Play.”

How Do We Hear the Spirit?

Too often we expect God’s voice to be a burning bush or like Samuel’s experience in the temple, to be audible and startling. The Holy Spirit doesn’t easily translate to paper. Sometimes She shows up in a way that defies words.

In our aim to be Naturally Supernatural, we believe the Holy Spirit will show up in subtle, yet distinct ways. There were two phrases that helped me understand what it meant to interact and make space for the Spirit to show up in my life.

“Our Thinker” refers to ways the Holy Spirit interacts with our intellectual understanding. How many times have we read a familiar Bible verse but suddenly have a new insight or revelation of it? Sometimes we read a verse and would say it “speaks to us”. This is the way we see the mind of Christ being interpreted into our minds and hearts through the Holy Spirit. We may receive a profound need insight, comfort or understanding of the scripture. That is all the work of the Spirit.

“Our Knower” refers to the more of the intuitive and mystical way we interact with the Holy Spirit. This may be an impression, instinct or just a “knowing” one senses when praying, or interacting with others. Have you ever felt a little prompt to pray or check in with someone? Have you ever seen an image or a color that left you with an impression while praying? Or perhaps you’ve had razor sharp insight on what to pray for with someone or been given a “word.” That’s the Holy Spirit interacting with your “knower.” We believe the Holy Spirit will show up in subtle, yet distinct ways. Click To Tweet

We believe interacting with the Holy Spirit should be a supernatural extension of the ways we are already wired. That means I will see the Holy Spirit show up in ways I’m already gifted, but amplifying them in a supernatural way. Sometimes that means the dramatic. More often it means taking and making time in our gatherings, services, and small groups to pray for things together and see how the Spirit shows up. Mostly it means being open and also means we give room for our own learning. It means asking for permission, making prayer a conversation and waiting expectantly.

As we look to the Awakenings Conference, what might it look like for you to learn more about the Holy Spirit? How can we make room for the unexpected? What does it mean to for you to move beyond a theological understanding of the Spirit into an embodied interaction with Her? What are some ways you can make room to invite the Holy Spirit into your spaces and time of worship?