We are always waiting for the Holy Spirit—somehow forgetting that the Spirit was given to us from the very beginning. In fact, she was “hovering over the chaos” in the very first lines of Genesis (1:2), soon turning the “formless void” into a Garden of Eden.
We are threatened by anything that we cannot control, that part of God “which blows where it will” (John 3:8) and which our theologies and churches can never perfectly predict nor inhibit (Acts 10:44-48). The Holy Spirit has rightly been called the forgotten or denied Person of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot sense the Spirit, like we cannot see air, silence, and the space between everything. We look for God “out there” and the Spirit is always “in here” and “in between” everything. Now even science is revealing to us that the energy of the universe is not in the particles or planets—but in the relational space between them! And we are having a hard time measuring it, controlling it, predicting it, or inhibiting it. It sounds an awful lot like Spirit.
Perhaps this is in part why the Quakers, open as they have always been to the movements of the Spirit, had such a difficult early history. For so many years I have felt that I was seeking the Holy Spirit, trying to find circumstances where I could put myself in the way of the Spirit, listening for a hint of the wind rising, the cry of the wild goose across the marshes.
Listening. I had not thought to listen together. I was familiar with the Vineyard sense of the Spirit’s presence in (musical) worship, or in corporate prayer, but I had always assumed that actually hearing the Spirit was something that would happen not only in silence but in solitude, as indeed it does. But it had not occurred to me that a group of women and men meeting together would provide something like a radio telescope array, whose listening power would be enlarged not despite but because of their differences, in a kind of spiritual interferometry.
Silence is becoming more and more my own default position. I long for silence with a clarity that it’s taken me a long time to admit to myself, and which is perhaps not so much a longing for silence in and of itself, but a longing for the Spirit who is not only always present, but is always seeking us. Silence is the heart’s opening to that call, so gentle as to be imperceptible in the scuttle and click of busyness, the hastiness of speaking…