Holy S***** Detours

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Have you ever had to take a detour? I certainly have—it’s so annoying. There is a direct route to your destination, but this big obnoxious orange sign appears and says, “Nope.” That was my whole week—maybe even my whole year up to this point. I could see where I was going with my writing and even with this specific post, but every time I got started and found a fairly decent flow, the words didn’t stick. It looked less like a compelling blog post more like a gymnast who dismounted from the uneven bars after a near-perfect routine and couldn’t stick the landing. I always hate to see that happen.

Every day, I would sit down to write about the Holy Spirit. For some reason, I wanted to teach you something, as if you didn’t have access to a plethora of podcasts, studies, teachings, talks, and books about the Holy Spirit. Friends, we don’t need more information about the Holy Spirit. There’s plenty of information out there—go find it. We need more awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us because it’s that awareness which will lead us down the path of living a transformed life. God’s presence changes everything.

With that transformation in mind, I set out to rewrite this post. Instead of forcing myself to write about the Holy Spirit, I sensed an invitation to write with the Holy Spirit, so rather than share what I’ve learned, I feel compelled to share about my experience. Sorta same topic, slightly different perspective—it works. I sat down to my laptop, deleted huge blocks of text, left the bones, and got to work. My poor delete key is going to wear out pretty soon, I just know it.

So here we are. Together. In a different place than I imagined we’d be and it feels uncomfortable. As awkward as this might get, let’s lean in together. Surely if we can endure the agony and uncertainty of unexpected detours and live to tell the tale, we can sit in the uncomfortable space of transition together. At least I hope we can. After all, I know the Holy Spirit is with us in this uncomfortable space.

I don’t know about you, but when things feel uncertain or unclear in my life I tend to return to old habits and routines. It happens every time I reach the edge of my familiar territory and find myself atop the sand dune of new possibilities—winds of change blowing gently through my slightly thinning hair and the salty ocean waves crashing on the sand below, tempting me to dip my toes in. In order to get there, I have to slide down the dune on a piece of cardboard. It’s risky—it could be exhilarating or I could get hurt. Maybe even die. I realize this is a bit dramatic, just go with it.

Turning around is easier than sliding down a sand dune on a piece of cardboard. I decide turning around is better—safer. It’s as if taking one more risk, making one more decision, doing one more new thing will be the undoing of everything I had worked for up to that point. I convince myself that if I were to attempt the dune, the cardboard would shred under the weight of my fear and insecurities. I think, “If I continue down this path, maybe the Holy Spirit won’t follow me.”

In The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins set off on an adventure together. Frodo is walking ahead—he knows the way. As they reach the edge of the Shire, Sam realizes aloud, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Frodo waits patiently as Sam takes a tentative step toward him and then another. That’s how things feel in my life right now.

I’ve sensed a slight shift in my writing—maybe you’ve even noticed it. I’ve expanded my vocabulary of descriptive words, I’ve invited you to consider new disciplines, and I’ve offered a printed tool designed to help you connect with the Holy Spirit in silence. I’m even planning to create more. It has been wonderful and challenging and the response has been encouraging and surprising—but all I truly feel is uncomfortable atop a sand dune.

Several months ago, I drafted a monthly plan detailing topics and goals for my writing. I felt so certain about pursuing it when I drafted it, but now feels like the wrong path. I wonder if Samwise felt that way at the edge of the Shire. He had his quiet life, his friends, his pints of ale, and his garden. Then he set off on an adventure and had to leave those familiar things behind. I remembered that Frodo and Sam actually set out on this adventure together. I’m convinced it was Frodo’s presence which compelled Sam to take the next step and continue on the journey.

That’s how I am experiencing the Holy Spirit’s presence right now. I set out on this writing journey over a year ago. I sorta fumbled around with ideas, thoughts, my voice, and discovered you in the process. Things were going well. I tried a few new things and even found the courage to publish a 10-day devotional. As I reached the end of my first year and looked at the adventure that lay ahead, I paused.

Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me forward one step at a time as he had that first year, I made a twelve month plan. Typical. The first two months, I stuck to it very well. There was nothing wrong with the plan—nothing bad. It was simply familiar. I can give you a thousand reasons why having a plan was a great idea. It was known and it was safe. As I progressed through my plan, I realized it wasn’t going to fit—at least not exactly how I originally envisioned it.

Last week, I found myself at the top of my writing sand dune—again. My hair was whipping around my face and the waves were calling to me. All of a sudden, I remembered that the Holy Spirit and I set out on this adventure together. He was with me at the start, he is certain of my direction, he knows the detours we will take, and how much I hate them. He knows me. He is a few steps ahead of me, but he is with me, waiting for me to hop on the cardboard and slide my way down to the waves. He knows I love the waves.

You know what? I knew the Holy Spirit was with me—I just forgot. I got to the edge of my familiar territory, I looked around, and things felt uncomfortable, so I made a plan. The Holy Spirit didn’t go on ahead without me, he remained with me. When I found myself at the top of my sand dune again, I panicked, but as soon as I looked up from my perfect plan with all of my perfect details and looked to the Holy Spirit who had never left me, I thought, “Ya know what? Fine. I’m gonna go for it.”

I hope that as I slide down this dune toward the salty waves that you’ll come with me. It’s wildly fun and a little scary, but I somehow I know the cardboard won’t shred beneath us. We might hit some bumps and we might catch some air, but it’ll be amazing! Once we reach the bottom, we can dip our toes into the water together and explore the beautiful life that awaits us when we allow ourselves to experience God’s constant presence through the Holy Spirit.

What detour keeps popping up in your life and where do you see evidence that the Holy Spirit might be drawing you toward it?

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