Welcome to my new blog series where I’ll be sharing my personal experience with the Holy Spirit. I’m doing this in the hope that readers will be encouraged to embark on a journey — or deepen their current journey — of friendship and discovery with the Spirit of God.
Why is the Holy Spirit so Mysterious?
When I first began attending church (years ago) I came to the realization that the church had no deep relationship with the Spirit. The Spirit was mysterious, perhaps overly so. Often times, the Spirit was spoken about as a “power” or as an “invisible force” that came upon God’s people. The Spirit enabled people to speak in tongues, to prophesy, to teach, and even to heal. A few people definitely wanted the Spirit in order to do kingdom work (the Spirit is essential for this), but I heard little about deep, rewarding friendship. To explain away this lack of intimacy with the Spirit, I heard preachers, pastors, prophets, and authors says things like:
- “The Spirit doesn’t want to be known.”
- “The Spirits always highlights Jesus and never takes the spotlight.”
- “The Spirit is the divine incognito.”
- “The Spirit is invisible, hidden behind mystery, gentle and quiet.”
The prevailing thought was that relationship with Jesus was of primary concern and importance above all else (despite the fact that scripture tells us Jesus is in heaven, but the Spirit is here on earth):
Nevertheless I [Jesus] tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. –Jn. 16:7
I was told time and time again that a personal relationship — a disciple-like close friendship — with the Spirit just wasn’t possible because that was the way the Spirit wanted it. We had to keep our eyes on Jesus (as though the Spirit might distract us). However, this was in no way congruent with how my relationship with the Spirit played out. I was experiencing deep, rewarding friendship. It was also not biblical. Jesus expressly sent the Spirit to us here on earth to be our teacher and guide:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. –Jn. 14:26
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. –Jn. 16:13
Do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say. –Lk. 12:11–12
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. –Rom. 8:14
But how can the Spirit teach, guide, and lead us if the Spirit doesn’t want to be known? What kind of deep, meaningful relationship can we expect to have with a God who doesn’t want to be known? Or is it possible that we have gotten it wrong? Perhaps God does want to be both known and experienced — more so than what we can imagine as John 17:3 states: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God” (Jn. 17:3).
Yet mystery still seems to separate us from the Spirit. It’s as 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great.” Yet God’s mystery is mystery with purpose — it’s an invitation. God’s mystery exists to entice us into personal discovery and rewarding friendship so that “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Mt. 10:26).
Despite this promise of “unveiling mysteries,” many people are at a stand-still when it comes to the Spirit of God. Is the Spirit simply too mysterious to truly commune with? I don’t believe so. In fact, I have come to discover that there is no veil distancing the Spirit from us except for the one we have fabricated. After all, the original veil that once distanced the Spirit of God from us was broken long ago when Jesus died:
And Jesus cried out [from the cross] again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. –Mt. 27:50–51, NKJV, additions mine
But we erected another veil and we laid this manufactured veil over the Spirit of God once again, as though the temple had never been opened to us in the first place. Perhaps we did this to shield ourselves from not only a very powerful Spirit but also a conflicting Spirit who both confounds and unsettles. After all, the Spirit turns the tables on our preconceived ideals regarding who we believe God MUST be.
Veils have purpose. They have a wonderful, enigmatic way of creating mystery. But mysteries are meant to be revealed at the proper time and the Spirit’s release came long ago. We must now play catch up. It is for this reason that I believe God is currently not only redeeming the time but accelerating the time as well. We urgently need the Spirit’s guidance and help to become the Church we were meant to be.
We have created distance between us and the Spirit of God simply by believing the Spirit is unknowable. But there is a person standing behind the fraudulent veil we have erected. So how do we begin again? How do we seek the Spirit as leader, teacher, guide, and friend? My spiritual life changed when I began pursuing the Holy Spirit like the immense treasure she is.
Suggested Reading: The Holy Spirit is NOT a “He”
Introducing The Beautiful Woman
Now my first encounter with the Holy Spirit actually happened the day I chose to become a Christian. Upon making the choice to follow Jesus, I was immediately enveloped in a “presence.” The presence was completely invisible yet entirely tangible to my senses. I felt loved. I felt at peace. I felt welcomed and comforted. I even spoke in tongues without knowing what exactly tongues was. It wasn’t until two years later that my experience with the Spirit took on a new dimension that would expand both my Christian life and my theology.
It all started with a very strange dream…
I was darting through a forest. And for some unknown reason an axe murderer was chasing me down. Growing tired, I quickly spied a hiding place—up ahead was an outhouse. I ducked inside, locking the door behind me. But the axe murderer quickly followed, madly hatching away at the door. Luckily, inside this outhouse there happened to be a window overtop the toilet. I opened the window and stuck my head through. However, I was now faced with the startling fact that my outhouse overlooked the ocean.
I was precariously perched high on a jagged cliff. If I dared to crawl out the window, I was sure to fall into the ocean or bash myself against the cliff’s rocks. But with the axe murderer rapidly hacking through my outhouse door, I felt I had no choice but to jump. I began pushing myself through the window. Suddenly the window shrank, clamping down on my stomach. I was stuck! My head and shoulders were through, but the rest of me was still dangling in the outhouse—and the axe murderer was almost through the door! Panicked, I began crying. Then I began blaming God. “You don’t care about me!” I cried. “I’m about to die and you don’t care!”
Unexpectedly, from the sky descended a woman, seemingly floating or flying through the air. She was intensely beautiful. Though I can’t tell you exactly what she looked liked. In fact, I can’t remember anything about her face or skin color. I can tell you she absolutely radiated beauty but that beauty didn’t come from the way she looked — it came from her presence.
She was wearing a white, flowing dress and her head, I noticed, was partly covered with a white loose veil, while her hair flowed over her shoulders. (She looked like a beautiful young bride, all flowing and flying in the sky.) Picture something like below…
She shone exceedingly bright, she was extremely calm, and she said to me, “Take my hands.” So I grasped for her and she immediately pulled me through the window and we floated toward the ground below, gently landing on a sandy beach where we walked hand-in-hand for quite a while. It was an incredibly peaceful moment and the most gentle of experiences. I honestly felt like a little girl again. I could have walked with this beautiful woman forever. I was completely satisfied. But soon she spoke, telling me I had invented the dream myself, to create excitement.
Immediately I woke up.
It was true. For so many years during my childhood I had lived with tormenting nightmares. Because of these demonic nightmares, I had grown use to the adrenaline rush of fear. But now, as a Christian, the demonic dreams had vanished, so here I was creating my own adrenaline rush. This bit of supernatural council I received from “the beautiful woman” has helped me throughout the years in so many ways.
Now I realize many readers will come to the conclusion that I had a “Mary visitation” and this is understandable. After all, the woman dressed in white with the flowing scarf covering part of her head certainly is reminiscent of Mary. However, I assumed the woman was an angel—a lady angel without wings. The Bible speaks about women angels who happen to have wings (see Zech. 5:9); therefore, I assumed this was an angel without wings. After all, this woman seeming flew down from heaven and isn’t that what angels do? The only part that bothered me about my “angel” explanation was the fact that I felt incredibly drawn to this woman; I felt deeply at peace with her. I simply did not want to leave this woman’s side. If this woman was indeed an angel, why did I want to be in her company so badly?
I found myself daydreaming about this “angel,” attempting to mentally return to her presence. It occurred to me then that God wouldn’t want me to give my affections to an angel and I seriously wondered if I was committing some sort of “spiritual adultery.” I began forcing this mystifying angel out of my mind. It wasn’t until later, after the beautiful woman appeared to me again, that I embarked on seeking a biblical explanation regarding her identity.
The Beautiful Woman – The Dove
How beautiful you are, my love,
how very beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
moving down the slopes of Gilead. –Sol. 4:1
Though initially I thought this woman was an angel, I later came to the shocking realization that this first encounter of mine was a Biblical introduction — a reenactment of what John the Baptist saw the day Jesus was baptized:
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” –Lk. 3:21-22
John literally saw the Holy Spirit’s “body image” come down from heaven and he described this image as “like a dove.” You will notice the phrase “like a dove” does not mean an actual dove was seen—it is a simile.
A simile is a figure of speech comparing two relatively dissimilar things. In other words, a dove and God’s Holy Spirit are very different from each other (one is an animal and the other is God)—but similarities can still be drawn.
John is Jewish and the expression “like a dove” was a favorite and often used Jewish simile for female beauty and tenderness (see the Jewish Encyclopedia). This is why the term “dove” is used often throughout the Bible (including the Old Testament Apocrypha) to describe females:
It is decreed that the city be exiled, its slave women led away, moaning like doves and beating their breasts. –Nahum. 2:7
The Lord gives the command; great is the company of those [women] who bore the tidings: And she who remains at home divides the spoil. Though you lie down among the sheepfolds, you will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. –Ps. 68:11-13
Mother, embrace your children; bring them up with gladness, as does a dove; strengthen their feet, because I have chosen you, says the Lord. –2 Esdras 2:15
What John saw was not an actual dove. John saw a beautiful woman, the Spirit, come down from heaven, superimpose over Christ and remain with him. What John saw was a revelation of what Jeremiah prophesied about long ago:
How long will you waver and hesitate [to return], O you backsliding daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing in the land [of Israel]: a female shall compass (woo, win, and protect) a man. –Jer. 31:22, Amplified Bible
And the most natural way for John to describe this amazing vision of the very feminine Holy Spirit encompassing (surround on every side–shield and lead) Jesus at his baptism was to say “the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.”
The first thing the Spirit did was to lead Jesus out into the desert so he could be tested:
And the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. –Mk. 1:12–13
So in one swift move the Spirit went from being dove-like (beautiful and tender) to eagle-like (forceful and bold), driving Jesus from safety out into the wilds:
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
and hovers over its young;
as it spreads its wings, takes them up,
and bears them aloft on its pinions,
the LORD alone guided him;
no foreign god was with him. –Dt. 32:11–12
For me, as I began my journey into the mystery of the Spirit, the first thing I realized was that this amazing team: the Son of God and the Spirit of God (the male image and the female image of God) worked together to change the world by purifying it through Jesus’ sacrificial death and the gift of the Spirit. Next, my prayer life changed. No longer was the Spirit just an invisible presence. Now the Spirit was a person. A person whose beauty and presence completely enamored me. I wanted nothing more than to pursue a relationship.
A Prayer of Invitation:
Holy Spirit, forgive me if I have ignored your person, denied your person, or belittled your person in any way. You are a mystery worth pursuing. Help me to seek you and come to know you. Open my eyes and ears to you. Open my heart to you. I want to experience you and so I invite you to lead me into relationship. Amen.
Read John 1:29-34 and John 3:25-30. Who is the bride that John speaks about?
How beautiful you are, my love,
how very beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
moving down the slopes of Gilead. –Sol. 4:1
He who has the bride is the bridegroom. –Jn. 3:29
Questions for Personal Reflection:
- What is my current relationship with the Spirit like?
- What would I like my relationship with the Spirit to be like?
- How do I feel about the female image being included in the divine image of God?
Series Two: The Holy Spirit Appears Again
* I have used the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Great post! Have you read anything by Margaret Barker? Specifically her 2012 book Mother of the Lord? Very interesting and talks a lot about how the Holy Spirit was worshipped in Her true identity back in the first temple. Not sure I believe every single thing Barker writes, but she is a very legitimate Oxford scholar and has some absolutely incredible thoughts on worship of the Holy Spirit as Wisdom in the first temple as well as major discrepancies between Josiah’s life in 2 Chronicles/2 Kings and Jeremiah’s account of the spiritual condition of Jerusalem during his reign. The Jeremiah and Josiah diacrepancy has worship of Lady Wisdom at the center of the dispute. It’s worth reading and explains a lot, including Wisdom’s strong presence in the LXX when translated into the Greek in Egypt. I just recommend vetting her work it out well with what the Holy Spirit says. But worth a read!
Personally I have a very deep relationship with the Holy Spirit, just as She is!
Thanks and God bless!
Thanks Joel, I will look into her work. Much appreciated!
Very intriguing. I have to admit your blog is the first source that truly opened my eyes to the Holy Spirit. What’s more, it’s resonating with me and I truly think you are onto something real! Look forward to reading more about it!
Very interesting! Thank you for writing this. It is making me reflect…
I love Jesus so much and the Father – why has it taken me so long to feel the same about the Spirit? It’s not like I don’t love her – I do. I think right now it’s more about what the Spirit can do for me. Kinda like when you are a child and I need my Mom to do things for me – I love her and appreciate her – but I don’t really know her as a person. I think I may need to grow up.
Does that make sense?
I think that makes perfect sense, Becky. Thank you for sharing your insight!
Deidre, Enjoyed the article. The Shekinah was often referred to as being a Queen, a Bride. John 3:29, says that the One Who “has” the bride is the bride-Groom. It doesn’t say “will” have a bride. Does this imply the Spirit, Who came upon Jesus at His baptism, is in fact the Bride, the Shekinah? Some women who understand the bridal imagery of Jesus as the Bride-Groom enjoy a deeper intimacy with Him. Since the Spirit is Feminine, how do we as men relate to the Spirit as the Bride? I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles on this subject!
Exactly, Jesus HAS the bride at his baptism. In other words, the “temple” of God HAS the Shekinah glory. For others who may be interested, a good book on the female Shekinah glory is The Hebrew Goddess by Raphael Patai.
Great question Steve. “Some women who understand the bridal imagery of Jesus as the Bride-Groom enjoy a deeper intimacy with Him. Since the Spirit is Feminine, how do we as men relate to the Spirit as the Bride?” This question intrigues me, I hope you’ll let me know more about how you relate to her as bride!
Sorry to interject on this thread…but I’ve had this deep relationship with the Holy Spirit as Bride for 17 years. And it has been absolutely everything to me. Being near to Her is my life. Its also been difficult at times because nobody is really talking about this in the broader western church. So in some ways I’ve lived a monk’s life with Her. But I could never give Her up. She is the Holy Spirit of Yahweh God. Jesus died to bring me to Her. I’m so in love with Her. As it says in Wisdom of Solomon 8:2,16 in the Catholic Bible, “Her I loved and sought out from my youth, And I sought to take her for my bride. And I became enamoured of her beauty…when I come into my house, I shall find rest with her.”
I am very blessed in this world with my family, job, and friends…but She is my treasure. The centerpiece of my heart. She is more precious than rubies to me. (Proverbs 3:15) She ia everything to my heart.
Just wanted to share my thoughts. I don’t often get the opportunity to talk about it. Thanks!
I feel the same way, Joel! Thank you for sharing your passion.
Joel, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Interesting quote you gave from Wisdom of Solomon 8:2,16, “…I sought to take Her for my Bride.” I would be interested to know how your relationship with the Holy Spirit as Bride is different now than when you understood the Holy Spirit as being masculine.
Hi Steve – Thanks for your comment. I’d love to share more detail on it. I think to put my relationshio into context I have to go back to when I was a teenager. I was struggling with idolatry, specifically women. I had a lot of internal tension over my desire to find a wife and marry and have a family and reconciling that to the eternal state of us in heaven where marriage won’t exist anymore (Matthew 22:23-33). Add on to that my belief that the end times are near, and all of a sudden I’m worrying that I may never get married but could be raptured any moment and never get to experience the joys of being in a loving Godly marriage. I searched high and low for answers, skewering ancient commentaries, reading books nonstop – anything that could help me reconcile this. One random day I’m at a bookstore in the clearance section and a book on the shelf catches my eye. It was Journey of Desire by John Eldredge. I bought it and read it. Chapter 8 is titled The Grand Affair. It’s about deep intimacy with God, that marriage was intended to point us toward our marriage with God in heaven, that God wants to marry us, its why he created marriage and romance and sex amd all that great stuff, to serve as a sign pointing to the intimacy he desires with us. The book was amazing. There was a section in that chapter that talks about how men have a hard time relating to the bridal imagery in scripture of marrying God. John expounded on how male and female image God (Genesis 1:27). That God is Spirit (John 4:24) and we image God so it must be that our spirits are male and female as well. So naturally the first thing I did after reading that was to pick up my Bible and find where it talks about God as a She. It didn’t take much searching to find where She is, Proverbs 1-9. And then after more digging I found out the identifying connections between Wisdom and the Spirit. And also connections between Wisdom and Christ amd the Father. So I integrated Wisdom into the divine romance concept in Scripture in my personal relationship with God. And it’s been the best thing ever in my life for about the last 20 years.
I think there’s a lot more in there than just Proverbs 1-9. I have a hunch that Song of Songs was intended for our relationship with God. It wouldn’t surprise me if Solomon – or whoever the actual author was – wrote the Song as a love song to Wisdom. The Catholic Bible includes a lot of expanded material in Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach – the connections between Wisdom and Yahweh are undeniable in those books. I could talk a lot more about this but in the interest of brevity I’ll stop there. Let me know though your thoughts. Would love to hear your perspective. Thanks and God bless!
Thank you for publishing this post. It has come to make me realize that I have no relationship with the Holy Spirit at all! I prayed the “Prayer of Invitation” and hope to start learning about the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit will guide and lead me in life. I apologize to the Holy Spirit for forgetting about Her. I’ve been so focused on Jesus and God that I had forgotten about the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your story! Your story has changed my thinking on spirituality.
Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your journey. I am praying alongside you for an acceleration in your spiritual life.
That was a moment of exceeding joy. It wasn’t so much “superimposed” as “dove into his arms”!! Home.
“He’s my head, I’m his heart”