Signs of the Spirit | The Rev. Susan E. Hill, Associate Rector

02.16.24 | Community, International, Pulpit Posts, World

Now that we have entered Lent, you may have begun a special observance for the season. Whether you are fasting, praying, or taking on another spiritual discipline, it can be easy to forget the true purpose. We can get caught up in being too rigid about the practice itself, thinking we can “win” at Lent! Or on the other hand, we might find ourselves forgetting to do the practice, and then feeling like we have failed at Lent.

Let us remember, though, that we take on a spiritual observance largely to grow closer to God. And so it might help to have ways of noticing when God is particularly present in our lives. But how? Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community (S.G. Farnham, J.P. Gill, R.T. McLean, & S.M. Ward) has a helpful list of common signs of God’s presence.

The first and central sign is Peace. Importantly, a feeling of peace does not mean that you have no problems, but instead that you feel certain in the midst of everything going on that all will be well in the end. We might think we are at peace when we avoid dealing with something in our lives, or make a hasty decision, or get out of a challenging situation. But if the peace endures through ups and downs in our lives, then it is a true sign of God. A related sign is Joy ─ which is different from happiness. Happiness tends to be a fleeting emotion that comes and goes based on the events in our lives. Joy, on the other hand, is an inner upwelling of feeling, and it may have little to do with your external situation.

Another sign is a temporary Disorientation, followed by serenity and calm. This might happen when you suddenly have a new insight that shifts your perception of reality in a way that is challenging at first but ultimately brings clarity. In fact, a sudden sense of Clarity can also be a sign. Sometimes the presence of God is apparent through Tears that are comforting and cathartic, rather than exhausting and alarming. Finally, the last two signs are Convergence of different strands of life experience that begin to fit together, and Persistence, when God’s message keeps recurring in different ways.

You may not experience all or even most of these signs, and they are not the only signs that God is with you! But it is worth paying attention to whether one or more of them show up for you especially this Lent ─ they may give you some insight into God’s presence and how the Spirit is offering you guidance.

May the Holy Presence lead us all through a deep and meaningful Lent!

Rev. Susan Hill

Rev. Susan Hill

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