Availability for the Spirit
Adrienne von Speyr
Verfügbarkeit zum Geist
Publisher:Saint John Publications
Translator:Community of Saint John
The first thing is an unclear promise of the Spirit. The promise brings a restlessness, but also a demand for readiness to lay aside everything in that restlessness which is purely human. There’s a demand, too, not to be afraid, but to accept everything as it shows itself. This readiness-in-restlesness includes a Yes and a No: We’re to say Yes to what the Spirit approves and No to what he rules out. When the Spirit is promised, he may wish to collaborate with me. If so, I have to go out to meet him in an attitude of expectancy.
Let’s say I’m supposed to give a lecture. If the Spirit wants to inspire the main ideas but leave me to work them out, I need to correspond to his promptings, without, however, being able to determine the “how” on my own. What’s expected of me is fearlessness in asking for more when he wants to give more, or in receiving receive less when he expects me to take less even though more would be available. He demands a clarity and transparency within the lack of clarity about what is to come. Perhaps the Spirit wants to inspire a part of the work in my spirit while letting my spirit finish the remainder with him. This promise already implicitly requires that I make myself completely fluid. It’s not enough just to stop resisting. No, I’ve also got to make a personal effort to achieve the requisite fluidity.
From the moment the Spirit is promised, one must await him and, so far as he demands it, persevere in waiting. This attitude of awaiting the Spirit can lay claim to one’s whole being, obliging one to create more and more empty space in oneself for what is promised. This is similar to a pregnancy, or to the people of Israel, which remains in expectation of the promise until the Mother pronounces her Yes.
When the Spirit actually does come, it’s time to correspond, to meet him as far as he requires, and to consider nothing more important than his coming. What matters isn’t that we correspond, but that he comes and that he draws our corresponding into his Ever More. Which he does if we realize that his coming is all that matters. The point is simply to be surrendered and to let him have his way. It’s not about planning something if he doesn’t, though it’s also not about pulling back if he does something and wants something done. Letting him act is not passivity. It means making everything you possess available for his action. This interplay never involves any sort of frontal vis-à-vis, or definitive arrival, or demarcation of levels. You are simply enfolded more and more in the Spirit. It’s out of this enfolding that you answer in the way he expects.
Every time you receive his love anew, you also get a confirmation that things are in order. The correspondence with him gives you a sure sense of being sustained and upheld. It’s a bit like when a hired hand works in a field by order of the owner. He wouldn’t necessarily recognize the owner or know where the owner lives, but in the evening he gets his supper and a place to sleep. Maybe the field is remote, but you correspond to the task anyway. And then it may also happen that the Lord himself comes to work the same field with you. This illustration makes another thing clear: In this form of correspondence with the Spirit, there is no complete spiritual night.
There is always some kind of sign of certainty and security in the Spirit, even in one’s insecurity in the midst of the world. And yet: The greater the demand, which also means: the greater our cooperation, the greater the need for pure availability to the Spirit’s will. It requires more commitment to remain in that attitude without trying to invent an answer, or to let oneself be loved without trying to return his love according to one’s own rules. This is no exercise for beginners.
The activity of the Spirit we’re talking about always goes with a demand, but the demand may have nothing to do with the present moment. Perhaps the Spirit brings about a deeper prayer, a fuller understanding, in a person, but for the moment doesn’t ask for any special action on his part. Even so, the Spirit keeps a sort of running tab for him. It’s as if an account had been opened for me: I can make withdrawals, but I have to pay back the money as well. It’s all open-handed generosity now, but the debt will be called in, and that may happen in a way I don’t like. The Spirit gives us pure joy and wants us to savor it, but this doesn’t prevent him from building in a demand that places obligations on us. He doesn’t force us to accept his grace or the demand it entails. It’s similar to the Lord’s Cross, which is gift and demand at the same time: By carrying it, he opened up the royal road of sacrifice for us.
Sometimes, the Spirit’s working is clearly identifiable. This doesn’t mean, that you are “rejected” afterwards, yet the character of the Spirit and his demand entail that you should, must, may, and can strive to re-enter that working… It’s like a visit that you must, may, and can repay afterwards. For the Spirit’s working can actively fill up our “I,” yet remain unfinished if its traces don’t remain in us. These traces are always characterized by a sense of having the grace to remain in the Spirit. This is why there are no worse unbelievers than those who once believed and so had the Holy Spirit.