When we think of the Holy Spirit, each of us has a different idea in our minds. This is perfectly fine, because we each have different experiences showing us who the Spirit is and what it feels like to realize the Spirit’s presence. In some ways, when we think of the Spirit, our memories of those moments in our lives are telling us what we need to know.
For this reason, it can be awfully hard to describe to someone else who the Spirit actually is, and this has been a problem for Christians from the very beginning. When we try, it always seems like the harder we try to describe it, our description of the experience loses something. It is naturally this way of our experiences of God, because God is truly beyond words.
In the early Church, the difficulties in describing the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit led to bitter disagreements. In Medieval times, there were huge debates about how the Spirit relates to the Father and Son, respectively. Around the Reformation, many argued about how the Spirit shows us the Truth in Holy Scripture. Every time we try to get more specific, it’s like a bar of soap slipping from our hands.
While there are many ideas about the Spirit that don’t seem to agree with Scripture, there is hardly a thing that we can say that makes sense to everyone. Again, this is because we are talking about God, and our words will always fall short. In fact, the very word we use, Spirit, has many different meanings to us. It is the same in Scripture, with the Greek word pneuma having at least 3 different meanings, and the Hebrew word ruah having at least 9 different meanings. As far as English goes, my dictionaries don’t even agree on how many meanings there are!
Something has always told me that this was no mistake. Perhaps it is actually God’s way of always showing us that there is more. There is certainly more to understand about God than one person can know, or any of us could know together. The worst thing we can do is to think that we have God figured out, and this applies especially to the Spirit. If you aren’t still being surprised by what God is doing in your life, you may be missing the movements of the Spirit.