The other day I had a peculiar encounter on the way into the grocery store. As my wife, daughter, and I pulled into the parking garage we got out and nodded to another family of 3 across the way. Similar in age, their daughter bounded with excitement about the glorious adventure awaiting in Trader Joes. It truly is a magical place. A toddler’s paradise. Especially if free stickers and stuffed animal monkeys are your jam. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am a sucker for the free samples and coffee myself.
The other family and we made our way into the store. Along the way I noticed that we parted at the intersection of the elevator and stairs. Once we reconvened at the top, we found our new friends working incredibly hard to open their umbrella to make the terrain through the harsh mist to the front of the store. Judgmental as I can be, I began to make up all sorts of stories about our companions and the “ridiculousness” of their 5 foot journey into the grocery store.
Quickly though, I was checked by the Holy Spirit. I realized that I can’t begin to tell a story about their identity. I do not know these people and their particular concerns. Instead of having compassion, I was making accusation in my mind: “tourists”…”new to town”…”umbrella, really?”. However, what stopped me in my tracks was that a loving God cared about the details as much as this family did. The “counselor” wanted me to see them, God’s children for what counts, not for the superfluous. To see these folks as beloved sons and daughters of God, and not as a piece of social commentary. To not reduce them to their difference from me (“I’m a Seattleite who would never pull out an umbrella for a small trip through through the mist”), but to instead look upon them as children of the living God. Maybe even to give them the benefit of the doubt and to admire their care for their toddler not being in the rain, instead of looking upon them with self-righteousness for a meaningless detail.
Was I being too sensitive? Was I overthinking this like a pastor looking for an analogy may be prone to do? No, this was much bigger. This was awe-inspiring for me. The Holy Spirit is alive and at work inside of me, was speaking to me, and I couldn't avoid that voice that felt like the most honest part of my being.
Have you heard that voice? Maybe you’ve avoided it? Maybe its saying something to you about who you are right now? About who others are in God’s eyes?
God simply cared too much about this family to allow me to believe a lie in judging them, and too much about my heart to let me reduce my fellow humans to objects with actions different than mine.
This was just one of many recent moments where I’ve underestimated the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me.
God desires that we experience “life to the full” (John 10:10), and refuses to let us “be a house divided that cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). Gently, Jesus reminded that my body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit”, and that God is always faithful to clear His temple of any infirmity (John 2: 13-22). Even when I’ve forgotten that "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide us into all the truth” (John 16:13).
I realized that The Spirit was my guide in that moment, and desires to be in all of our moments.
If Jesus was “the fullness of the image of God”, I am excited to remember more each day that He is still fully with us in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus is our God taking on flesh and moving into the neighborhood again. This time though, we are the residence where God is dwelling.
I am also praying that His Spirit moves in and through our lives today with “Power, Love, and Self-Control” (2 Timothy 1). I hope you will pray and ask God to do the same in your life, and in my life; one umbrella at a time.
Perhaps next time, I’ll hear the Spirit’s nudge and offer my new friends an umbrella while glimpsing the image of God in them as we walk together into the misty storms of life.