A piece of God inside us

May 23, 2014 by

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As a child, I never understood the Holy Spirit. I could envision God and I could envision Jesus, but this part of the Trinity that “moved among us” was too ethereal for me to grasp. At best, I thought of the Spirit as a sparkling wind; at worst, a scary ghost waiting to jump out and catch me sinning. When I sat down to write my systematic theology in college, I had to figure out who this Spirit was and what they were up to.

I remembered sitting in a huge room with several thousand other Mennonite youths, my mother next to me, listening to John Paul Lederach give a speech at convention in Atlanta. He was telling us a story about a colonel he saw at an airport in South America that he had painted as “the enemy” in his mind. He never spoke to the man, only looked at him through a window, but he became so involved in his disgust for this man that it was visceral. But then, he saw this colonel greet his disabled daughter as she got off of an airplane. He saw the joy in the man’s face and his tenderness as he helped her move around. He saw the way in which this man was like himself: they were both fathers, they both loved their daughters. It was in this moment that John Paul saw God in this man that he had had such righteous disdain for only moments earlier. When John Paul finished telling this story, I looked over to my mother and saw that tears were flowing down her cheeks. I then realized that I, too, was weeping. This experience shaped the way I strive to live my life: to see God in every person I meet.

When I thought of this story, suddenly this ethereal Spirit made sense. It wasn’t merely moving among us, but in us. I believe that each and every human is imbued with a piece of God in them at their creation and that this piece of God finds a way to shine through even the most disdainful person. This is what gives me my unabashed faith in the human race: we are all created in the image of God and we all have the capability to allow that image to shine through us.

This is also the reason I always trust my gut: God’s in that gut. When you believe that God is a part of you, it becomes easier to trust your own judgement. Obviously there are times when ego gets the best of us, but if we are discerning, we can hear God’s voice inside ourselves.

I like to use the term dwell to describe the Spirit in us. It gives the sense that the Spirit is at home with me, in its dwelling. It also hints that the Spirit will not leave me, but will dwell with me through everything. God is focused on me, dwelling on me. And there is a stillness in dwelling, a sense that we are together and that is enough.

The One who Creates, the One who Incarnates and the One who Dwells Within. This is how I understand God. This is the keystone to my theology. The way I understand God informs the way I understand the world.

We are created in God’s image, the Creator gave a piece of Godself to Dwell in us and with that piece of God, we can Incarnate and show God to others.

Brooke Natalie Blough lives in Philadelphia, Pa., and works at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship and writes at Now Faith, where this blog first appeared, as part of a series.

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