"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13
We spent this past weekend relaxing and visiting with family. It was a perfect weekend- really, what we needed was a weekend to relax. We had no real plans, and had we stayed at home, the list of things to get done around the house was hugely long- there would have been no rest here. So we went away for a few days, where there was no choice but to relax. And while we maybe feel today like we'd like just one more day of doing nothing, we definitely feel like we had a weekend of relaxation- what a gift from God!
One of the things we did while we were gone was some shopping. We gave the kids each a small amount of money and let them spend it on special things that they cannot get from around here. I always love doing it, because it's really interesting to see their thought processes, and watch them make the choices of what things they would like to take home. But this time, there was something different, and I think my daughter got a very valuable lesson in learning to listen to the Holy Spirit.
While we were shopping, we came upon a display of stuffed toys- something which, if anyone knows my kids, we have a bazillion of, and the last thing I want them to buy is more stuffed stuff. But Abigail had some money left, and walked around looking at them before settling on a stuffed puppy. She showed it to me and I asked if she was sure she wanted to spend her money on yet another stuffed dog. She said yes, so we walked on, we had other things to look at. She carried this puppy with her while we looked at other things and then a short while later she came up to me, a concerned look on her face. "Mommy, I don't know why, but I feel like something is telling me to go put this puppy back." I gave her a hug and I told her that when she feels that way- when she feels like something inside of her is telling her to do something, she probably should think about doing it. She hesitated for a minute, but she quickly made up her mind and walked back to put the dog back.
Can I just say that as a mom, I was very, very proud of her at that moment. She listened to that quiet voice that was counseling her to not spend her money on something she truly didn't want. And she didn't. I think at that point, she was just thinking that she always gets a stuffed animal from that store, so she should get one this time. After she put it away, she was chipper and happy and not remorseful in any way for putting it back. I will say, that a big part of me is curious about the reason for all of this. Was this simply a moment of teaching for Abigail? A time for her to listen to that voice and heed the advice given? Or, is something else on the horizon? Is she going to have an opportunity with that nine dollars she didn't spend that is going to really be something special for her?
Regardless, it makes me think of all the times that I experience "that feeling" and then I don't listen. Or I get that feeling, and I really have to think on it and weigh my options. Sometimes, it is when I'm doing something like shopping, and I pick up an item and feel like maybe I shouldn't buy it- but I do anyway. But more often- especially lately, that feeling comes when dealing with other people. I'll get a prompting to e-mail someone or even just to walk up to someone and ask how they are doing. Or I'll get the strangest ideas to ask someone about something- or even to give someone a bit of information- and then that information turns out to be something this person was really looking for. But I don't always listen to that voice- and I'm learning that I should be listening and paying attention, because you just never know what God is going to use to bless another person.
So often we call that feeling, those thoughts, our conscience. We say that our conscience guides us, gives us a moral compass to direct us to things that are good. The reality is that the idea of a conscience is the worlds idea of giving a name other than "Holy Spirit" to this counselor that helps guide our thoughts towards the things that God would have for us. And as we grow, we learn more and more to listen to these thoughts.
You know, when I was my daughters age, I already had many an opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit, thought I didn't very often. By the time I was nine years old, I was an experienced shoplifter. I could pocket anything in the small town we lived in and walk out the door of many an establishment, most often, at that age it was a piece of candy or a very small toy, but I didn't listen to that voice that told me it was wrong- instead I listened to the idea that I wanted all this stuff that I thought all the other kids had when I didn't. It was a great thing that God had plans for me and I was delivered of that desire to steal before I became older and had a taste of stealing real stuff. And through that all, God used my bad behavior to steer my whole family to church- and when I think on that, I am certainly not proud of the way I was behaving, but it really opens my eyes to wonder. If I had never been caught shoplifting how much longer would it have taken my parents to decide to take their family to church?
And now, I am so blessed to see God working in the lives of my children. I watch my daughter as she listens to what the Holy Spirit tells her, and that also gives me a great opportunity to encourage her, to tell her how proud I am of her, and instruct her on listening to that feeling when it comes up. I watched my son Sunday morning, we were visiting a church while out of town, and after service was done, I watched him run laps around the sanctuary. To anyone else, it just looked like he was getting out some energy, behaving like a child, but I knew better. The Holy Spirit told him to run around the sanctuary, and my little boy obeyed and as he ran, a child-like spirit was released in that space to bless those who needed it.
"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Luke 10:21
"When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14
When we pay attention to the Spirit working in our children's lives, frequently God will use that same message to speak to us. A few months ago when we were looking at a house that we were considering moving in to- Abigail really didn't like the house. We had been so excited going into it, thinking that it was the right place for us, but Abigail really strongly felt otherwise- and told us as much. It surprised us, but we listened to her concern, and the more we talked about it, we realized that she was right, and that was not at all where God wanted us.
And aren't we so incredibly glad that we listened to our daughter, because as much as she hated that house, the second the kids walked into this one, they both felt like they were at home. Sometimes our children are more sensitive to listening to the things of the Spirit, and I have to believe, that if they listen now, at such young ages, that as they grow, that communication will increase. The more they listen, the more they will get such counsel, and while I am certainly not in any rush to have my children grow, I am excited to see how they will grow in the Spirit over the next several years. And the more we listen, the more we ask for something to listen to, the more the Spirit will give us the counsel that we seek, and the whole time, we'll be getting closer and closer to God. That right there is really the point of it all.