I was reading a book recently who was presenting the idea that we should be “radically dependent on the Holy Spirit.”
For an entire chapter he spoke about how we live in an independent culture and are so used to depending on our own training and abilities, that we no longer depend on the Holy Spirit.
So far, so good. Now what is the solution?
“Radical dependence on the Holy Spirit……”
That phrase was his only solution. What does that mean? How do I do it? Say something else!!
This chapter represented a problem I see a lot. We talk so much about the need to “depend on God” but I rarely see anyone talk about what it looks like in real life.
But it is a very subtle float so others may not notice.
Hey man, are you floating?
Nah, brother, this is radical dependence on the Spirit.
Now I am sure for some people, there is a very clear understanding of what it means to “depend on God” in your life. This post may not be for you.
This post is for people who have heard the phrase “depend on God” and had no idea what it meant or looked like in real life.
This post is for people who have heard explanation of what it looked like to depend on God and felt they were too far-fetched or disconnected from real experience.
I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s experience of depending on God. If it is a transcendent experience for you, that is a good thing. Keep going. Pursue that. Grow it. Tell other people.
But there are some of us out here on the margins who have trouble with the idea.
So here are three practical tips for being more “dependent on God” in ways that make a little more sense to those of us who don’t know how to float.
1. Ask yourself: Where am I rooted and oriented?
One of the areas of study I am doing is Appreciative Inquiry. The basic premise is that organizations and people grow in the direction of the questions being asked, so we need to be intentional about the questions we are asking about our lives. If I am in a constant mental struggle to be successful or comfortable or manage my image, this is the direction my life will go.
But when I am wrestling and struggling (imperfectly) in the direction of God, I will begin to move more and more in God’s direction, even unconsciously.
This may take the form of prayer or journaling or reading or church, but the question is: What do you do to remind yourself of your orientation? We need intentional times of rooting and orienting ourselves in a certain direction. When we do this, our routine, automatic decisions will lean in the direction we are rooted.
This is why the Table is such a big part of the Christian life. We come back again and again to remind ourselves who we are, and this affects the direction our lives will go.
2. Be present. Staying present is a very difficult thing for me to do. But I think being present is one of the more important disciplines of the spiritual life. We use a lot of words for this: listening, being responsive, awareness, paying attention; there are many ways to communicate it because we know it is something we should be doing. It is just difficult.
We need to be present not just to God, but to the people we are with, and to ourselves. And in fact, when we are present to others and ourselves, that tends to be where God shows up.
Being present to ourselves teaches us to trust how God speaks in our lives. Being responsive to others helps us see how God is moving and working outside of ourselves.
This often requires reflection. When reflect, we begin to train ourselves to be more present, and we engage in an orienting practice.
3. Practice gratitude. Similar to orientation, what we are thankful for often determines the direction of our lives. When we experience good, beautiful, transcendent, amazing things, we should remember the source of all that is good.
Gratitude also cultivates humility. When I do something particularly amazing, I can be grateful that God worked through me in that. This doesn’t depreciate our talents and abilities, but acknowledges our talents and abilities are a gift and something God works through, even in the moments we are not paying attention.
Gratitude helps me hold the tension of my work and God’s work. When I discover how much power I have to shape the world and people around me, I recognize I have this ability only because it is a gift of God. But in the same moment I see my own agency as a gift from God, I also recognize my own frailty.
No matter how much influence and ability I have to shape the world, it will never be enough. God is the only one powerful and loving and good enough to usher in true transformation. But God still invites me to participate in the process, and my contribution actually does matter. Gratitude helps me hold this tension.
These three things help me make sense of what it means to depend on God. They are rooted in intentionality, but they also build habits which make us more automatically dependent on God. They are practices which cultivate our awareness of God moving even in the small and insignificant details.
You may not always be conscious of exactly what God is doing in every single moment (which probably means you won’t float either) but you can move in God’s direction and pay more attention to the work God is constantly doing. And the more we are aware of what God is doing, the easier it becomes to participate.