What does it look like to relinquish control of our own lives and let the Spirit lead us into adventure and paths unknown? Here, Heather Casimere, a second-year MATC student at The Seattle School, reflects on the process of knowing God’s presence in the thick of the forest.
Following the Holy Spirit leaves me more and more powerless to have control over my life. For me, control has been difficult to surrender. One of my most beloved personality traits is the fierce independence inherent to my nature. When I want something, and get it into my mind that I do, I will do everything within my power to bring it to fruition. This can be an incredible trait, even one that has been necessary to overcome all that I’ve had to.This tenacity is a stubborn strength passed down to me from my ancestors, who required it to help them get through the harsh realities of their own lives. It is a beautiful thing. Yet I have found that the Holy Spirit asks me to bring this part of me to Him so that He can lead me down paths I never would have chosen for myself. It’s been a process, to say the least.
My process of truly following the Holy Spirit began four years ago when I witnessed a miracle happen in a dearly loved one’s life. The effects of said miracle rippled out onto the rest of us, his family. The effects have kept rippling ever since. In the aftermath, I found myself wondering if the God I claimed to follow would move in the same way in my own life and resurrect me, if I actually began to follow Him. I had found myself in a desperate, terrifying place. My life was wonderfully successful on the outside; under the surface, my emotions were spinning out of control. Unbeknownst to me, scars and pain from the past had been running amuck in my subconscious for years, and had begun working their way into my conscious mind. What began as panic attacks evolved to seeking the help of a counselor to confront old wounds that needed to be dealt with, and thought patterns that needed to change. Amidst all of this, I knew that God was real. I had felt His presence manifest all around me in nature. He’d speak so clearly to me that there was no question whether or not it was Him. I knew He was real, because I could look back at the times when God showed up in my life. Yet the internal reality I was experiencing was not lining up with the peace and joy that the Word said was mine.
Choosing to follow the Holy Spirit through the work of healing began with hope-filled questions. “If He is who He says He is, shouldn’t I be living in more freedom than I am? Shouldn’t I be able to enjoy peace of mind and control over my thoughts? If God is good and real and right, then He must not be the problem.
Maybe I have been thinking in a way that is not in alignment with His goodness and truth spoken over my life. Maybe it’s me that needs to change.”
Surrender of fierce independence and reliance on self…Hope that God, in His goodness, might have something better for me… those were the first two steps I took towards Him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there they were. Since then, there have been many more steps required. The four years we’ve walked together has been a process of fire, desert and wilderness that continues to lead me ever further into most coveted land.
Very little of this process has been easy, or even anything that I would have chosen for myself. The warrior spirit within me, left to its own devices, would have long ago attempted to take over the world. And then exploded. But the Spirit began to guide me, saving me from myself.
“Don’t run, walk,” He whispers. “Listen, learn. This thing you hate? You need this. This person who is challenging for you? You’re for each other’s good. I’m not going to tell you why, or how. I’m so excited! It is going to work so perfectly in your story.”
To these words I raise a skeptical, impatient eyebrow. “Really, Lord?”
He has the nerve to grin widely at me. To turn back to the path and keep going.
The Holy Spirit takes the reins and leads me through unchartered terrain, challenging me to do things I doubt that I am capable of. Then we do them and look back and laugh at how far I’ve come, how far He’s brought me. Creativity begins to spill out of my spirit like never before, not diminished, but over abundant. Suddenly words and paint and freedom is everywhere. My life looks nothing like I thought it would look like and yet…familiar. Like I have been here before. Cairns are recognizable along the way.
Holy Spirit looks back and urges me forward. When the cliffs drop out from under us He throws me a wink. I scream at Him in fear and terror and then realize I am laughing. I am learning throughout this journey that He is for my good. I have seen enough of this progress to know that the way out is to keep going. As I keep letting go, He reveals to me more and more.
He leads me so far away from everything that is familiar that I can’t find the way back to control over my own life anymore.
I want to buck and rebel. Most of the time I do. Then I realize that I would rather keep following Him through the dark underbrush of the forest whose weeds we must whack through than to even attempt to find a way out on my own.
“The way out is going to be uncomfortable,” He is gentleman enough to tell me. Then He grins and writes another promise across my skies.