I believe in the Holy Spirit. And not in some vaguely conceptual way. I believe that the Holy Spirit is actively at work, in large ways and small, in my life every day.
Whoa. Did I just say that out loud? I usually don't talk about this to anyone unless I am convinced that their beliefs are in line with mine. But I want to share something that happened to me when we first moved into this house, and I can't tell the story without prefacing it.
I believe that those gut feelings I sometimes get, those hunches, those unexpected complications and annoying delays are really the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding me. And more than once, by following those "instincts," I have been spared from harm or led into a favorable situation.
Case In Point: Our dentist's office is 25 miles away, and it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to get there under the best conditions. There are so many people in our family with teeth that I schedule multiple cleanings at the same time, instead of making the trip on many separate days. The dentist office is so busy that you have to book your appointments 12 months in advance.
In spite of all that, I found myself loading the kids into the van only 15 minutes before the appointment time. Arriving on time would be a physical and spatial impossibility.
You can imagine that I was already flustered and frustrated. Now, mix in one carsick kid. With great impatience and resentment (for the delay, not the kid) I pulled over to the side of the road. He didn't get sick, but he did walk it off and breathe in the fresh air for a short while. And we got underway once again.
Not two miles farther down the road, we saw warning flares. And there in front of us was a multi-car pileup. Shattered glass lay all over the road. It had happened so recently that the cars hadn't been removed from the roadway and the police hadn't arrived yet. And I can't help but think that if we hadn't been delayed that extra few minutes, we would have been part of it.
Coincidence? Could be.
I have learned the hard way not to ignore those nagging feelings. Many years ago (circa 1997), when I only had three little kids and was still singing in the choir, I felt the strongest reluctance to go to choir practice one evening. My husband wasn't home that night, so I'd have to take the kids with me, and it was a school night,...yada yada. I just plumb didn't want to go, but I packed 'em all up, got a good parking spot right out in front of the church, and went inside.
I forgot one of my song books in the car, though, so I sent the kids out to get it. They retrieved the book, returned to the church door, and as it was swinging shut I could hear a commotion outside. Shortly thereafter, somebody ran to the church door and called in, "Does anybody here drive a blue station wagon? Somebody just crashed into it."
I shudder to think how many seconds those kids were away from being in that car when that drunk driver came careening down the street, bouncing like a ping-pong ball off of fifteen parked cars. I am eternally grateful that they were spared from harm, but I will never forget how strongly I had felt I should stay home that night. I chose to ignore my gut feeling, and we were out one blue station wagon as a result.
The instance I want to relate took place on a Friday night in September 2008, but it requires a bit of explanation.
Our house has two kitchens...One on the main floor which we use all the time, and a second one up on the third floor, in a large room that used to be a daycare. Someday it could be a 2 bdr apt., but now it's a rec room with a kitchenette, 2 bedrooms, and some exercise equipment. We usually hang out downstairs where the fireplace is, but for some reason on that particular Friday I had everyone truck up there to watch a movie and have snacks.
Before we went upstairs, I heated up a can of Spaghetti-Os and grabbed a few other things to munch on. Once up there, I preheated the oven to bake popcorn chicken.
Now, my 7yo Clare had been whining to me for weeks that she needed an ear cleaner (Q-tip). Of course, I usually don't carry Q-tips with me, and she'd only ask for them when we were in church, or in the car, or somewhere else similarly devoid of Q-tips. And of course, by the time we got home to where the Q-tips live, we'd both have forgotten about it. So Friday night she whined about it again, but bingo! I knew exactly where the Q-tips were - only a few steps away! So I stepped out of the room to get them.
Something smelled funny. Smelled hot. At first I thought it was just the smell of the electric oven preheating, since it doesn't get much use. But there was that funny feeling again, so I moved a little closer to the staircase. And the smell was stronger there.
I wasn't too terribly worried, because our fireplace has had smoke backing into the living room since Christmas Eve (when I caused a chimney fire, another story). The smoke detectors go off every day, and also every time we open the oven door, so I wasn't too alarmed. But the farther down the stairs I went, the worse the smell got, and the hazier the air became with smoke. By the time I got all the way down, I couldn't see across the living room, and the acrid smoke was choking me.
And there, on the stove, was the pot I used to heat the Spaghetti-Os that I forgot to turn off before going upstairs. The pot's contents were blackened and the smoke was terrible. And for once, the smoke detectors hadn't gone off.
Could there have been a fire? I don't know...probably. Would I have been so quick to get Clare a Q-tip if she hadn't been bugging for so long? Maybe, maybe not. All I can say is that I believe with all my heart that all the factors were put into play by the Holy Spirit to come together at that one moment to spare us from harm. You can scoff, or give me an "Amen!" or dismiss it as dumb luck or blind chance.
But I'll just keep on believing anyway, thank you very much.