As the Spirit Moves*

I've been having hard time this past week or so thinking of things to write about. Doubtless this is partly an effect of finishing the draft of the second chapter of my book; partly also an effect of having my first blogging anniversary. It's all too easy to end up looking at my feet (metaphorically, as well as in yoga class) and starting to think too much about how to walk. I kept wanting to write something really profound for my year-and-a-day, but everything kept fizzling, feeling too stilted. And besides, I was tired.

Where does inspiration come from? It's a good day to ask, eh? There they were, huddled together in the upper room, "together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus [very significant], and with his brothers [ditto]," devoting themselves to prayer. "And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 1:14, 2:2-4, RSV).

I'd love to be filled like that, wouldn't you? To be able to speak another language, just like that; to be filled with knowledge and wisdom and be able to go out into the world and preach; to feel God moving through the world "like a mighty wind" and be filled with the fire of his presence. Or would I? I'm never actually entirely sure. Wouldn't it feel more like being possessed than inspired? What about the things that I want to do in my life for myself? Would I have to give them up? What if the Spirit made me go someplace I didn't want to, put myself in danger of being killed (as the apostles were), demanded that I give up my family, my home, my career? I don't think I'd like that very much.

I want my inspiration somewhat safer, thank you very much. The gentle touch of realization that, "Oh, that's what I want to write about; it's really what I've been thinking most about the past day or so, not this thing that I think that I 'ought' to be writing about." I like the idea that our ideas come from somewhere outside of us, that it is not we, but God who is creating through us. But am I wholly comfortable with the thought that maybe God has ideas that want expressing that aren't what I would like to be writing about? I pretend to enjoy inspiration, but how many times have I complained about the way I write, not really liking my style, how things come to me? I look at what I write and sometimes I think it is pretty good, but I do envy others their style, too.

And then there is the problem of what being inspired actually means. What is God? Our Creator, in whose image we also create, making books and movies and paintings and cities and civilizations and lives. God made the whole universe, but God is not the universe. God is like the author of a book: its maker, but not a part of it Him/Her/Itself. So how does He/She/It communicate with us? It's a mind-boggling problem. So, say, Tolkien wanted to talk with Eowyn. How would he go about it? You say, "He's the author of the story; he'll just make her say what he wants her to say." Aha, but we, unlike the characters in our own books, have free will. We can choose what to say ourselves.

"But," you reply, "authors often describe their characters as taking on a life of their own, saying and doing things even they did not expect." Okay, so we have an example of the way in which we think and act in relation to God: He/She/It does not make us do anything; presumably it's another question whether HSI can. But isn't this what HSI does when HSI inspires us? I.e. moves us to think or say something HSI wants us to? We can resist the inspiration, of course; refuse to do God's will for us. But how do we know when we are being moved by God or not?

Here's the problem I'm having: yes, I have felt inspired in little ways many times in my life, almost everytime I sit down to write and stand up (if not until hours later) having written something I never imagined I knew. But shouldn't being inspired by God feel, well, somewhat bigger? This is GOD we're talking about, Maker of Heaven and Earth! And all I get is a little nudge now and then to say this or that? Where is God? Nowhere, of course, and everywhere: nowhere because place is a creature, but everywhere because HSI made every place. How on earth can HSI have contact with us without crushing us, literally blowing our minds? You'd think it would be, well, more obvious, yes? Like a mighty wind or a great fire, not just this little whisper that typically leaves us hanging, wondering what to say or do next.

"God damn it," I want to scream, "talk to me! Is this what I should be writing or not? Stop being so subtle all the time, confusing me with choices. I'm not really sure you're there anyway. Wouldn't I know by now? Either you're the Creator of everything or not. Why is it so difficult for you to make yourself known to us? And why, after all, don't I get a choice about what or how I write? Why can't I say, 'I'd like to write a novel,' and then you help me? Why does it always have to be what you want, if it is what you want and not just me being inept?" And so forth.

Never mind looking at my feet; this is like trying to look at the back of my own head. No, harder: like trying to look at the back of my own soul, trying to see myself from God's perspective, from the tenth dimension, as it were. The hubris of imagining that God not only sees into, but cares about our every little mental move! There are over six billion of us alive right now, and we think that God is sending little spurts of inspiration to every one of us? Again, couldn't HSI be a little more obvious? Or, of course, maybe HSI is, and it all depends on how we look at it. Who, after all, is the author of this post: me or God?

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