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Seeking the Spirit: A Reflection on Galatians 5:16-26

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ” – Galatians 5:22-23

When I read the list of acts of the flesh in this passage, some stick out to me more than others. I have never partaken in some of them, and some even seem wholly irrelevant to my life, but others reveal themselves as regular temptations in my mind. We all have bents toward different desires of the flesh, things we honestly feel we want to do. However, Paul tells us the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another, so we do not do whatever we want.

The Christian life is one of laying down things we thought we wanted, things we thought would make us happy, or even things we have given a hold over ourselves if those things compete with God for our affection, devotion, and love. This process is often painful, long, and even confusing, as we may wonder what God plans to do with the parts of ourselves we have chosen to surrender to him. Sometimes, when God plants things in those freshly cleared flowerbeds, they take time to grow. In the meanwhile, as we wait, we might feel we lack gratification or even happiness.

We must hold fast to the truth that we have crucified our old selves, old passions, and old desires to make room for the Spirit. Dying is hard, and this takes trust. However, we serve a God who is trustworthy. I must confess that sometimes I forget the Holy Spirit is a person. I think of him as a sort of force or idea, but I find comfort when I remember he is one of three persons of the Trinitarian Godhead. Cultivating a personal relationship with God, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reminds me why it’s worth it to crucify my old self, old passions, and old desires. If something needs to move to make way for him to move in, it has to go. Nothing else is really worth it.

The fruit the Spirit plants in place of the desires of the flesh can take time to grow and ripen, but the Holy Spirit is trustworthy with any part of ourselves we give to him. The fruit he brings will gift us with exceedingly more fulfillment than we ever could have expected from our old desires. I have found that, though the process of turning away from myself to turn to God has not always been the happiest journey, it has brought deeper and more abundant happiness than I ever could have given myself. Living by the Spirit and keeping in step with the Spirit can be hard, but it is always good, and always worth it.

Only the Holy Spirit can give us the fruit of the Spirit, and seeking God in relationship can serve as a great first step in asking God to fill us with those fruits. C.S. Lewis words it well when he says, “The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come as you are looking for Him.” Go and seek God today, giving up the flesh and its desires and passions. Seek the Holy Spirit, and ask him to do what he will in your heart.

Rachel Smith, New City Stories Contributor

Holy Confusion

I form light and create darkness,
    I make weal and create woe;
    I the Lord do all these things.

Shower, O heavens, from above,
    and let the skies rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation may spring up,[a]
    and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also;
    I the Lord have created it.  Isaiah 45:7-8 (NRSV)

I’d come to the place where I knew that God was the Sovereign – the mighty protector and holy giver of destiny.  But now there comes the life of moving nowhere.  I’d learned that God’s blessings are given in his own deep other-worldly timing.  So, it wasn’t the loss of anything that became real, though there had been loss and wounds and healing and love.  And there will be more.

That wasn’t the deal.  There was a vastness to it.  A wide and long sort-of lush desert.  I was living within it.  Above, below, behind, before, right, and left – a space.  My counselor called it “the liminal”, the in-between.  Perhaps it was.  Perhaps it is.  It feels like a dance floor with no one on it.

When I was a girl, I used to go to the indoor basketball court in our church and lay down right in the middle of it.  The floor was cool, the space was large and dark – lush with nothing.  No one was playing or present at all.  But it felt like healing.  I’m not sure I knew the name for the feeling then.

Now I do.  I know because I’ve marched through unhealth and church wounds.  Now I know what healing feels like.  And it’s like laying in the middle of a basketball court in the dark.  An allowing of the empty so Something larger can be present.  Or Someone.

It’s a sense of the holy milling quietly and gently in the soul – a non-forceful but working entity reminding of love and grace and fullness.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.  It’s after that.  Well, maybe there’s no “it”, but it’s after.

They’d always said that ministry was and is and should be me acting with God for his purposes.  Maybe they are right.  But that means there’s an “it” hiding somewhere in the after.  But I haven’t found it – “it.”  There’s a kind-of God given confusion.  Can that even be a thing?  It doesn’t sound quite right theologically and my education is pushing it away like a cup of spoiled milk.

Most of the time, we think of confusion as a bad thing – or maybe I just do.  We think knowing is key.  But here’s the deal, God is the only All-Knower.  So, when the holy descends, I can’t and will never understand it all.  It brings with it the unknown lapping over the soul like a kind but rushing river.  I swim gleefully and carefully within it because it is both a comfort and a challenge.  It’s an expansive feeling – a lostness in the Known without knowing.  It’s a feeling of goodness beyond myself, beyond my need and want.  It’s a joining to the Immense.

And because of that, it is a confusion.  And because of That, it is holy.

 

Jessica Fleck, New City Stories Contributor