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The Susurrus of the Holy Spirit

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What’s This Now?

I apologize for being a word nerd, I simply cannot help myself.  Susurrus is a cool sounding word that means a whispering or rustling sound.  The Holy Spirit part of the title I hope you already know.  It is my firm belief that the Holy Spirit most often (not always, as I will point out) comes to us, not as a screaming banshee, but rather in a quiet, whisper, or rustling.  This has clear implications for us as we seek to discern God’s plan for our lives.  If we are to figure out how best to respond to God’s gifts of Grace upon Grace, then we had better figure out how God is communicating with us.  It is my contention that the Holy Spirit communicates with us in many ways, some dramatic and obvious, but that the Holy Spirit also comes to us more frequently in a whisper or a rustle.  This makes it even more imperative for us to listen.  While we are not likely to miss the smack on the head from the Holy Spirit, in our noisy world, we might very well miss a whisper.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit Is Loud

I have personal experience with the loudness of the Holy Spirit.  One of the best is the example of how I got involved with the Sunday School program at church, shortly after I returned to the faith.  I will not repeat it here as I detailed it in Chapter 8 (page 99) of my book Understanding God.  I will only say that was getting smacked right in the face by the Holy Spirit.

A similar experience, that I have not previously shared concerns my former pastor.  He retired for health reasons and was confined to a care facility for some time before he died.  I was feeling guilty that I had not visited him yet and mentioned this to a friend from church.  I was convicted that I was being neglectful.  Yet, a week went by and still no action by me.  After that week I was having lunch with my current pastor and mentioned to her that I felt bad that I had not visited Pastor Ken.  Again, I was convicted, but to what end?  The very next day I ran into my former pastor’s wife at the grocery store.  At that point I literally looked upward and said, “alright, stop shouting, I hear you!”  I visited him the next day.  Sometimes it takes a bonk on the head to get through to us, and the Holy Spirit is quite willing to deliver that bonk.  I know I certainly needed it at that moment.

It’s the Whispers We Might Miss

The problem is not hearing the loud clanging noisiness of the Holy Spirit or feeling the bonk on the head.  Even I am not that thick to not get that kind of message.  The problem is the many more times the Holy Spirit comes to us in a whisper, or a rustling.  This means we need to be listening for this rustling or whispering.  In a noisy world, this likely means that we need to be intentional about quieting ourselves and opening our ears (and our hearts) to what God is telling us through the whispers of the Holy Spirit. 

This notion does have Scriptural support.  1Kings 19:11-12 show this idea in God communicating with Elijah. 

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

It was only in the silence that God came to Elijah.  This is where the notion of “the still small voice of God” comes from.  That is an excellent way to frame this idea.  Often that is how God comes to us, via the Holy Spirit, in silence, or a rustling whisper.  If we do not quiet ourselves and listen, we will not hear.

Listening is a Habit

The way to intentionally listen for the susurrus of the Holy Spirit is to work at it like any other discipline or spiritual practice.  It takes commitment to do this.  It does not take hours per day or breaking out a prayer rug in the middle of your workplace.  You only need to set aside some time to sit quietly and listen.  Find a place that is quiet and build a prayer space.  A corner of a room, or a spare bedroom or perhaps a basement area.  Pick a time of day that works best for you.  I would certainly use this time and place to pray, in whatever manner is most comfortable for you.  There is no bad way to communicate with God.  But for purposes of hearing the susurrus of the Holy Spirit you will need to spend some time in silence.  A minute, or five, it is up to you.  Whatever amount of time that will center you and calm you so that you are receptive to that still small voice of God.  Then just be present in that moment…listen.  God is pursuing us and trying to communicate with us all the time.  We see that in the noisy exchanges I discussed above.  However, He is trying to communicate with us in other ways as well, even in the silence.  Unless we get quiet and create some silence, we will not hear Him.

Much of this is trust.  The same kind of trust that we place in God’s saving Grace and the promise of eternal life through belief in the resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ.  If we trust in that, then we should trust that He will communicate to us in all kinds of ways, even in silence.  So…listen.  Our trust, and our faith leads us to want to follow His plan for us.  This is a key part of our response to God’s gifts.  God communicates with us through the people He puts in our lives, as well as directly.  The direct route, however, requires us to intentionally seek out the counsel of the Holy Spirit to help us.  We don’t really need to work on the obvious bonks on the head, we will get those messages clearly enough.  But unless we settle down and get quiet, we will miss altogether the susurrus of the Holy Spirit.  So, for the final time…listen.  It is not complicated; it only requires a little time and not much effort at all.  Then sit back and hear all the amazing things that a God who loves you without limits has to say to you.  There’s gold in that rustling you hear when you get quiet.

Praise Be to God

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