It can be hard to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in the moment. But by reflecting on an experience, it’s often possible to notice him after the fact.
As an example, let me tell you a story.
“People are so inconsiderate,” I grumbled. There was an ebike blocking my bike lane, and I was approaching fast.
As I flashed by, I caught a glimpse of wild hair and leathery skin. An old sprite of a man had a death grip on his handlebars. His elbows were out and flapping as he tried to urge his non-compliant scooter forward.
And I thought, Could this be Mike? Mike in my small group from church. My Missional Family, as we call it.
And families help each other.
So I impulsively circled back to check on the man who might be Mike.
And as I circle back now in reflection, I recognize this as a time when the Holy Spirit was convicting me of how my attitude wasn’t like his. My natural thought was annoyance at the obstruction. The Spirit’s thought was compassionate concern. In just seconds and without much thinking, I had both felt and responded to his gentle correction.
The man wasn’t Mike. But I asked anyway, “Are you okay? Can I give you a hand with anything?”
“Can you go to my sister’s house? Ask for Barbara. No, ask for Pat. He’s my brother-in-law. Tell him my bike is dead.”
“Umm, where do they live?” I asked, a bit taken aback by his ready acceptance.
“Kentley. Kentley Street. You can’t miss it. Lots of houses. You just go down Cannon here and there it is on the corner.”
“And which house?”
The traffic muffled his response.
“Three?” I clarified, holding up my fingers.
“Okay, I can do that for you. I’ll go to 3 Kentley and ask for Pat. And what’s your name? My name is Sam.”
“Jimmy. My name is Jimmy. Thank you very much, Sam. Oh, and ask Pat to bring his trailer.”
“I’ll see what I can do!”
I had expected my offer of help to be declined. Agreeing to go to a stranger’s house was uncomfortable—perhaps risky. But though I felt these things, I was also aware of God with me. The Holy Spirit gave me awareness of his presence. How else could I explain my courage?
The light turned and I raced on. Kentley. Kentley. I passed East, Emerald, Oak, Smith, Clyde, Leeming. How far ‘til Kentley?
At a red light, another cyclist stopped beside me. I smiled at him. He shyly said hello. I commented on the weather. He smiled back. “Safe ride,” I called, as the light turned green.
I felt alive. Cycling often wakes me up, but it doesn’t always make me friendly. As I undertook this errand, I think the Holy Spirit was giving me life through it. I was not merely breathing, I was present to the moment, overflowing in greetings and smiles.
I came to Huntley Street. It occurred to me that maybe I had misunderstood Jimmy. The traffic is loud and I’m hard of hearing. I stopped to check the map on my phone.
“Oh no,” I gasped. Kentley was all the way across town, beyond the Redhill Valley. Definitely not a left off Cannon. So maybe it was Huntley. Except as I turned onto the little dead end, there was no number 3. The closest was 10. Maybe Jimmy meant 13? But there was no car in the driveway.
And 13 Huntley is a long way from 3 Kentley.
My unease, my pausing, my checking a map—I think these are examples of the Spirit’s leading. My thoughts were not mystical or dramatic. But they were nudged by God to lead me where I needed to go.
I biked back the way I had come. And there was Jimmy, two feet on the ground, still trying to roll his bike forward.
“I’m sorry,” I called. “I think I have the address wrong. Do you want to use my cell phone to call your sister?”
“I don’t know their number. My phone is dead. But it’s very easy. 3 Kentley. Just up Cannon. On the corner. A left.”
“No Jimmy, Kentley is across town, beyond the Redhill.”
“Let me show you.” He got off his bike. Where was he going? On the sidewalk, he began acting out the way with wild arms.
“I know,” I interrupted. “But it’s not Kentley. How do you spell the street?”
“I don’t know.”
“What else is nearby?”
“Houses, lots of houses.”
I turned to my map, scrolling up and down Cannon. “Is it Huntley Street? Clyde? Chestnut Ave?”
“No, no, no. It’s Kentley.”
“Yes, yes, Kinrade! 3 Kinrade!”
“Just before Sherman?”
“Don’t go past Sherman. It’s on the corner.”
“Alright, I’ll try again,” mounting my bike.
I’m not usually good at pressing my point. But when I had to be, I think the Holy Spirit helped me be effective in communicating with a stranger.
I zoomed down Cannon for a second time. “Lord, grant me success,” I prayed, only half joking.
There was a number 3 on Kinrade. The windows were dirty. Several dogs amplified my knocking.
An old woman appeared in the window. I smiled with as much friendliness as I could. Another woman, likely a sister, opened the door while trying to hush the dogs.
“Hi, I just met Jimmy on the Cannon bike lanes. He’s okay, but his bike is stuck. He asked me to ask for Barbara, his sister. And for Pat to bring a trailer to pick him up.”
To my relief, the woman nodded. “So that’s where he is. Let me get my sweater and I’ll go find him.”
She turned back in, and the other woman stepped out. I retold my story.
“Oh good, my Bobby is out looking for him now.”
The first woman, presumably Barbara, came out with a fleece.
“I’ll go find him. Thanks for letting us know, dear.”
“No problem,” I replied. “He had asked for a trailer,” I offered, noticing that the two ladies were setting out on foot.
“It’s okay, we’ll get him,” Barbara replied.
“Thank you,” I called as I biked away. I decided they could take things from here.
When I first approached the house and then as I watched them go, I had a sense that I wasn’t alone. It was very small, very quiet, and so very likely it was God’s Holy Spirit, reminding me of our relationship.
Your own relationship with God means that he is always at work in your life as well. Whether in the moment or after the fact, the Holy Spirit can help you recognize his activities. Activities like
- giving life
- bringing awareness
- making effective
- and reminding you of your relationship to him
As you reflect, where do you see evidence that he has been at work?
Reflection Guide: How to pause to let the Spirit help you hear God’s voice
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