By Melicent Huneycutt
“Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs / Because the Holy Ghost over the bent / World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
With these lines Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the fresh Genesis images of the Holy Spirit as Creator, brooding over the waters and nurturing them into light and life, and as the Breath of God, breathing personhood into the potent human clay.
Most Biblical images vivifying the person and work of the Spirit are images of life. The Spirit is life-giver, life-nurturer, the life surging in the creation and growth of human personality. Paraclete, the Greek name by which Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit, who was to walk beside and dwell within believers, is translated to express warm and growth-enhancing qualities: Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, Helper, Partner.
As Comforter, the Spirit first comes into our lives to show us that we were created to be like God; we were chosen before the foundation of the world to “be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). The Spirit helps us understand that our self-dissatisfaction grows out of awareness that we fall short of the glory God designed us for, and then as Comforter the Spirit leads us to hope in Christ, who yearns to be the Healer of our brokenness. Making us one with Christ, the Spirit becomes one with us, filling us with newness of life.
As “the One beside us,” the Paraclete nurtures us while we discover our new selves in Christ. The Counselor guides and encourages us toward healthy attitudes and choices, the Advocate intercedes for and stands up for us, the Helper pours into us strength to live true to our new personhood, and the Partner shares in our struggles and our victories.
The Holy Spirit is the life of Christ in us. Like an iris springing from a dull, dry tuber, we are transformed by the Spirit’s life surging into us. Some of us blossom overnight, while others grow slowly like a century plant — we each grow according to the God-seed planted in us and our healthy response to the Spirit’s nurture.
Slow growers may experience “being filled with the Spirit” as a process; they may give to God level after level of themselves, being filled always with increasing joy and power to serve. Others may experience a sudden spurt of growth, a sense of God rushing into their persons and their lives in such a dramatic way that they try to find a special word for this event. Whatever the name we give to this transforming power, whatever the description of the process, we know that somehow we have been enabled to put ourselves out of the way so that the Spirit has become free to urge us to our full potential.
The evidence that we have been “filled with the Spirit” is not often a supernatural gift such as speaking in tongues, which some mistakenly see as the only “proof.” Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that the Spirit expresses life in us by fruit rather than by gifts. Love, joy, peace, courtesy ripen in those who yield themselves to the inflowing life of God through the Spirit. As unconsciously as trees bear their fruit, stretching their branches to the sunlight and drawing life into their abiding roots, the people of God as they mature delightedly and unself-consciously bring forth graces in their relationships. By these fruits, the indwelling Spirit is made known–and the true joyous self of each believer fulfilled.
The Spirit gives gifts even to the immature: the love to reach out to others, helpful hands-on service, communication with power. The purpose of gifts, however, is not so much to enhance the growing individual but to be the life of God in the whole body of God’s people. Just as the Spirit brings to full personhood each one who welcomes the life of God, so the Spirit brings us into oneness with each other in Christ and surges in our common life to fulfill God’s dreams for us as the Body of Christ.
Because the gift each of us brings to the Body is a channel for the flowing of God’s love and healing power, believers have the responsibility for discovering, developing and using their gifts. Otherwise the life of the Spirit is stifled in one area or another. Fruitful folk are often those whose gifts are also most prodigally shared.
The greatest fruit, love, is also the greatest gift. Since our life in the Spirit is a life in God, and God is love, all the gifts we have are offered to the Body in the context of love and of delight in the healthy growth of the whole Church.
The Creator Spirit who works in each one of us, often futile and fragile people, to fill our lives with love and our beings with joy, creates an even greater miracle. Somehow that same Spirit infills thousands, millions of other equally frustrated folk and makes us together one living, fruitful, giving organism: the Church of the Living God, the Bride of Christ.
What beauty there is when we move in perfect harmony, responsive to the Life of the Spirit that makes us one!
— Melicent Huneycutt, a former Christian educator and PCUS missionary to Korea and associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Evanston, 111.; at the time of the original printing of this article she was active in the Covenant Fellowship of Presbyterians and a member of the Joint Task Force to Write a New Directory for the Service of God.
Extracted from Holy Spirit (3 views) Reprinted from the September 1985 issue of Presbyterians Today. You can READ the WHOLE ARTICLE by Clicking HERE.