All the World's a Classroom
It is a strange experience when you realize that you don’t really know someone who has been around in your life for a while. Somehow, familiarity substitutes for intimacy. Because the person is around, you don’t feel the need to get to know him/her well or to spend effort to understand his/her psyche. The name is familiar, your friends are friends with the same person, and so you kind of just know him/her through the network and not have a genuine personal connection with the said person.
This happens to me recently (or at least, this one particular case is recent). I’m realizing that I have been familiar with someone for a long time, but largely ignorant about his personality, work, preferences, and everything pertaining to his personhood. In fact, I think some of my conceptions of him are simply misguided. His name is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.
I’ve seen glimpses of the Holy Spirit’s work; I’ve experienced His presence. But if someone were to ask me to describe who the Holy Spirit is, I wouldn’t know what to say. As a follow up to GYC, which was all about the Holy Spirit, I started reading The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey (free on Amazon Kindle), and it has been very eye opening.
The author first introduces the Holy Spirit, much like introducing a friend, by simply stating a simple fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an inanimate power, who has a will, reason, emotions, and all the attributes of a Divine Being. Just this point alone changes the way one relates to the Holy Spirit.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God imparts to us. If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.
In the past, I think my conception of the Holy Spirit has been somewhere between an inanimate power and a Person. Of course theoretically I would say the Holy Spirit is a Person, but experientially, I don’t really understand what that means. For most times, I probably don’t even think He’s around!
If we think of the Holy Spirit as so many do as merely a power or influence, our constant thought will be, “How can I get more of the Holy Spirit,” but if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a Divine Person, our thought will rather be, “How can the Holy Spirit have more of me?”
Ever since GYC, regarding the Holy Spirit, I found myself asking the question, “Who are You, Lord?”
So I’ve embarked on a personal journey to get to know the Holy Spirit better. I think I’ve missed out a lot in my relationship with God due to my ignorance of the Holy Spirit and what He can do in my life, and as the quote says, I’ve robbed Him of the worship, adoration, and love that is due to Him.
When I was a Bostonian (or just-outside-of-Boston-ian), randomness was one of life’s essentials. Due to the brilliant construct of the MIT campus, the great ol’ Massachusetts Avenue divided the campus between the student life section on the west side, where most of the dorms, gym, and student center were located, and the academic buildings on the east side. When my classes and research work were done on a random weekday, but before the problem set marathon, I would come out of 77 Massachusetts Avenue in the late afternoon and many times, instead of crossing the street to head to my dorm, I would turn left instead and walk toward Boston.
Upon turning, the Boston skyline across the Charles River would immediately be in sight. I would walk across the river, which would take about twenty minutes one way, and simply enjoy the breeze and the sight of a big body of water. When the sky was clear and blue, it would be very close to what I’d call perfection.
Usually, after I got to the other side of the bridge, I would simply cross the street and walk back. On a freer day during vacation, I would extend the walk into the city, walking along Newbury Street, crossing the Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons, even going as far as Government Center and Little Italy. For what reason, you may ask? Well, nothing particularly, except for the simple pleasure of walking and savoring the moment. I loved the fact that I didn’t need to go anywhere, didn’t need to do anything, and I could just…be.
Sure, the one-hour detour or the Boston loop may heal a case of a cluttered brain, or increase the oxygen intake in my blood stream. But these functional reasons were not really why I went on a walk. I wanted to enjoy the walk not for what it could do, but for what it was.
I believe in enjoying life. I believe in extracting as much joy as I can in various simple pleasures, and walking is one of the ways I find that enjoyment. The air, the surroundings, and the people – I get to experience all of that when I move at pedestrian’s speed.
As I get older, this type of spontaneity becomes less and less accessible. But I still believe in its importance. Perhaps it requires more intentionality in carving out time for enjoyment, especially amidst the numerous tasks that we need to do.
“There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24
Perhaps because the verse is sandwiched between Solomon’s “all is vanity” litanies, I used to read it in a more bitter tone: things are going to be gone and destroyed eventually, so just enjoy them while they last. But read in an optimistic way, the verse says quite a different lesson: don’t worry that things won’t last, just be grateful that they are here now. Take pleasure in food, enjoy your good labor – these are gifts from God.
Sometimes I think about how I would be remembered, should my life end. In a busy world that puts much value in working, I actually don’t want ‘hard-working’ to be the first thing people think about when they hear my name. Instead, I want to be remembered as someone who enjoys life and everything that I do, someone who lives with joy.
How fitting it is that Sabbath is here, a day to be savored not because it serves as a relief to the week’s burden or weariness, but because of what it is – a time to be.
“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord… The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)
This storm is ridiculous. How are we ever going to get to the other side? We move an inch forward and five backward. Water keeps coming in, and the twelve pair of hands’ effort to throw it out is simply futile. Is nature making a joke out of our misery? I am so sick and tired of this!
Where is Jesus anyway? I don’t understand why He didn’t come with us. Why did He tell us to go? And I don’t understand why He told the crowd to leave as well. We were about to take over the world! We had such a great time on the mountain. Five thousand plus men were there, and that’s not counting the women and children. How did that turn into this? Why can’t the good times last?
It is now the fourth watch of the night. We’re exhausted. I’m tired of fighting. I just want to curl up and die…
What is that in the shadow? It has the shape of a man, but what kind of man walks on turbulent water?
“It’s a ghost,” someone gasps with wide eyes.
The sounds of our heartbeats seem to take over the sounds of the winds. Someone’s hands are trembling so hard he drops the oar into the water.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s me,” says the man in the shadow. It sounds awfully like Jesus.
This wouldn’t be the first time He surprises me. He has a mysterious way of coming out of left field. I just can’t predict what He’s going to do next.
Well, if it is really Jesus, I can do a little test right?
“Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to You on the water.”
Did I really just say that?
Okay, I don’t really expect that response, but I kind of do too. Something in His voice just sounds so sure, it makes the water seems like a glassy floor.
I know that He has come through for me in the past. Even though I feel a little disappointed with Him recently, it always seems like He has another plan in mind that turns out better than expected.
I think I can take my chances.
Eyes forward. I’m stepping out.