The Holy Spirit and the everyday

Since it’s Pentecost Sunday this weekend, I’ve been praying the Holy Spirit novena and thinking more about the Holy Spirit. I feel the Holy Spirit gets short shrift a lot of the time. While a part of the Godhead, the third person of the Trinity gets almost no mention.

The first time I read Acts of the Apostles, I was struck by how the focus had changed from Jesus to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit takes over the same role Jesus had, doing surprising things and talking to surprising people.

As I worked through the novena (published day by day over at Happy Catholic) I read through each of the descriptions of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and thought, “Yeah…I want that…” for all of them.

But here’s what struck me from the prayer for Wisdom:

The more usual thing, however, will be to find God in everyday life, with no special effects but the the intimate certainty that God watches over us, sees what we are doing, cares for us as for his children, at work or at home. The Holy Spirit teaches us that if we are faithful to his grace, our everyday affairs are the normal way to God, there we serve him in this life and prepare ourselves to contemplate him in Heaven for all eternity.

Think about that: our everyday affairs are the normal way to God.

Making coffee. Scrubbing the toilet. Driving to work. Answering the phone. Putting a band-aid on a scraped knee. Picking out a book at Barnes & Noble. These are the normal way to God.

As humans, we goggle over Signs and Wonders and Gee Whiz Moments. And as God, what God likes is to sit at the kitchen table as we wash the dishes.

Personally speaking, there are only a few times in my life when I can say absolutely without a doubt that the Holy Spirit took command and made sure something was done right. I know He’s been more active than that, but I’m talking about moments I can pinpoint with certitude. And they have one common denominator:

I had no idea.

I was writing something or talking to someone, and while doing that, I happened to write or say exactly the thing this person needed to hear. I didn’t find out until later. At the moment, it just seemed to be something I ought to say. No angel of the Lord appeared and commanded, “Thus says the Lord! Tell him that he must {whatever I said}.”

No, it was more like, “Oh, yeah, I should tell you this,” and I said it, and later the person said, “That absolutely changed my direction. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I wanted you to know.”

Meanwhile I’d gone bumbling through the rest of my life, totally unaware that God was at work. Which is typical of me. When I find out something like the above happened, I generally want to curl up under my blankets and shiver because it’s obvious God did it — look at the cruddy tool he used!

This goes back to what I said earlier, that sometimes God only wants our willingness to do the right thing in order to make the right thing happen. We don’t even need to know we’re participating, but the Spirit knows the needs of our hearts and helps us give one another what we would, if only we realized the need.


  1. Promise

    I personally don’t understand why the Holy Spirit gets left out so much of the time, as this is the aspect of the Trinity with which I most closely identify.

  2. knit_tgz

    Before I became a Christian again, it happened a few times that I approached people for selfish reasons, because I wanted to get something out of them, but pretending it was for selfless reasons. And then I would become friendly with them, and talk to them, and twice it happened that later they told me I had said them something that was crucial in helping them out of some hole they were in. One actually told me I was like an angel sent from God, that I said her exactly what she needed to hear to get up and come back to life. Despite my selfish reasons, somehow the Spirit found a way to act through me, even though I didn’t believe in Him at the time… (At the time I simply felt humbled and ashamed and decided this was a sign that I should quit using people for selfish ends).

  3. Lane in PA

    You wrote: “Meanwhile I’d gone bumbling through the rest of my life, totally unaware that God was at work. Which is typical of me. When I find out something like the above happened, I generally want to curl up under my blankets and shiver because it’s obvious God did it — look at the cruddy tool he used!”

    Why would you refer to yourself as a “cruddy tool”? I don’t see you in that way at all.

    1. philangelus

      We all look better in our press releases. 🙂

  4. Colleen

    Good post. Today I led a day of reflection and what I said was received in different ways by different people – each one getting what they needed – each one hearing me in a different way – awesome. The Spirit worked through me and I had no clue.

  5. Lynn Mosher

    Jane, I don’t see you as a cruddy tool either. If Christ lives in you, then He has found a worthy home. You are special and loved. We are all worthy vessels even though we may have a few cracks!

    It is so awesome that the Spirit works in us, isn’t it? If our hearts’ desire is to be obedient, then, if we follow His leading, what we do will be for His glory and the benefit of others.

    I once ignored the Spirit’s leading and regret it to this day. My heart’s desire is to follow all the Lord’s nudgings, no matter how big or how small.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Blessings to you…

    1. philangelus

      I guess I see that although I’m loved by God, that there is nothing whatsoever I could ever do to merit that love. It was freely given, and as far as tools go, there are smarter and more eloquent people out there who are already doing God’s work and doing it better.

      Part of being a master craftsman is knowing your tools and using the best ones for the jobs that need them. It’s always very humbling to realize that God used something I wrote or said, when I can see all my flaws from the inside.

    2. Lane in PA

      In response to being worthy vessels even though we have a few cracks:

      “There is a crack, a crack in everything
      That’s how the light gets in.”

      — Leonard Cohen

      In my interpretation, light should be “Light” as in the Light of Truth.

  6. Pam

    Hey there,

    I am not religious, but I am spiritual. Sometimes I feel guilty becasue I don’t go to church, but I think I am journeying towards spirituality in my own way. My dad,in addition to lots of other things, was a religious fanatic. It was weird, growing up in an abusive household and having him quote scripture all the time. Me and my sibs had avery hard time with that as well. I went to Catholic schools,and wound up being very confused.

    I am glad I am finding ways to invite spirituality into my life now as an adult. I am pretty sure I will return to church soon,as I am looking for that as well.But I will wait for it to find me, as I trust it will.

    1. philangelus

      Pam, the childhood bits you’ve written about were a wringer, and I’m sure there are many, many things you haven’t written about. Ambivalence, confusion, and even anger would all be normal reactions toward God after the abuse you endured.

      One thing I’ve realized over time is that God is very willing to meet us on our own terms. That eventually God may ask us to meet him on His terms, but initially God comes to us.

      If we really meet God first and most in the everyday, then there are many ways for God to come into your life now, not through the doors of the church necessarily but through the doors of the people you love, the students you help, the messages you give and receive through your own weblog. Sometimes I think being open to possibility is enough. God will let you know when and if there ought to be more, and then at the right time, even if it’s a difficult thing, your heart will respond.

      1. Pam

        Thanks! Tears streaming as I read this!

  7. cricketB

    Read Chalion. You will find resonance.