I love hiking. One of my favorite things is to wander off into the woods. Sometimes I choose walking along a well-worn path, something akin to walking marked state park trail. The walking is usually easy. The trails are usually gently sloped, easy to travel and give me a chance to think or let me mind go. Other times, I like walking where there is no trail, across wooded areas beneath trees stepping where there is little more than an open space. Which I choose is a matter of mood, whether I am going with the intent of getting my mind on or off something particular.
Often, I find attempting to follow the Holy Spirit is similar. Sometimes I find myself going to places, people, ideas I have already encountered. I ruminate on thoughts I have had before. I talk with people I am comfortable with and visit places I know well. In these places, I find old friends, old ministries I can pick back up with and enjoy ministry I am comfortable with.
Other times, I find myself led to people, places, ideas I am not at all comfortable with. As a seminarian, I found myself in one of these places. At the time, I thought of it like a crucible, a place where I was being burned, shaped, molded and in a way which I didn’t expect and was not comfortable with. Things I had been taught were called into question, refined, and called into question again. Ideas about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church, salvation, and many other things I thought were settled from my former understanding as a layman were now being sifted, shaken.
When all was said and done, I realized all was not said or done. I continue to learn, continue to be shaped, molded. I have not found where the Holy Spirit has left me passive, but I am continually having to deepen and learn new paths. Some of those paths are comfortable and easy. They crisscross things I have seen and places I have been. Other things, lead me out to paths I have not tread and find somewhat difficult terrain to navigate.
What am I saying with all this? I am saying following the Holy Spirit as guide and teacher is not a static, uneventful way of discipleship. In the words of Peter, “I really am learning…” Note, Peter is speaking in present tense, am learning, still learning, continuing to learn. To quote someone else, a seminary professor of mine, “If you have it figured out, you have nothing figured out.” Never assume you have the Christian life and all its intricacies sorted. None of us do or ever will. It will always be humble walk down a variety of paths leading deeper and deeper into the great mystery we call God.