Liberation & Loss: What It Means to Follow the Spirit

Following the Spirit requires loss. Loss of control. It also means giving up things that used to matter. It is also liberating.

Responding to a “Holy Spirit moment,” my wife and I embarked on a journey across the country. We sold our home and became renters. We said goodbye to a dog. We gave away all of our possessions but what fit in two cars, moved to Oregon, and sold one car upon arrival. Our response to the Spirit meant becoming more nomadic; we moved three times in ten months. I’ve simultaneously doubted myself and been confident that I’m on the path upon which God desires for me.

There are many things and attitudes that I’ve given up over the last year. I sobbe

d when my Matchbox car collection sold quickly on eBay. Not a day passes that I don’t reach out for my beloved friend Jade who had to be put-down. I yearn to sing silly songs to her, give her too many dog treats, and feel her head resting on my leg.

Selling my car, in my mind, was giving up not only mobility but a sign of my personality. Like a cheating husband who looks at other women, I still fantasize when I see Scion xB’s around town. Yet letting go of these and more were necessary to follow the direction the Divine has laid before me. We would have been in bankruptcy court before Christmas of last year had I not sold my car and emptied my pension to pay bills. 

It might seem that I would be in a deep depression but I am not. I did have several weeks of lethargy and blues in the midst of confusion when my literal interpretation of the precipitating “Holy Spirit moment” was shattered. I doubted my impressions, my intuition, my sense that the Spirit was leading this way because it didn’t fit my image of what was to happen. (See Leading the Malleable Life Amid Hurricane Force Winds). Though, I worried during that time that I had abandoned the path I put one foot in front of the other.

Following the Spirit is trusting that which you sense. Our culture’s idolization of rationality dismisses remaining faithful to that which we cannot quite see. In some ways it is anti-spiritual and severs an integral part of what it is to be part of humanity and creation. 

Hyper-rational thinking discounts intuition and trusting the Divine. In The Shack, Wm. Paul Young describes the Holy Spirit through the primary characters eyes:

“But he knew all this as more an impression of her than from actually seeing her, as she seemed to phase in and out of his vision.” (Wm. Paul Young, The Shack, p. 85)

Even during times of discouragement, doubt, and fear, I follow. I whine a lot, yell at God some, but trust that the One who has set me upon this trail will not leave me lost in the wilderness alone. At times my vision is clear; I know I’m following the Spirit. Much of the time, however, I simply risk believing my impressions as the Holy Spirit seems to phase in and out of my vision.

The result is a generalized sense of contentment. I feel liberated from the impossible task of being in control of tomorrow. Following the Spirit is about being in the present. It is about living, caring, loving, and accepting the One who is within, between, and around us. When the Spirit dances just outside my vision, I try to trust my intuition and sixth sense. 

When I fail to trust as fully as I wish I would, I accept that feeling, too. I pause. I refocus. I pray. I make only those decisions that must be made that day. I remember the One who forgives and loves me extravagantly.

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