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Isn’t it funny how sometimes we keep running into the same word or phrase or concept time and time again? Maybe funny isn’t the right word to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it beautiful? Merciful? Humbling?

I first read it here, how “I am not your Holy Spirit”. Yup, guilty of that one.

And then, not two days later, I read it here. “I am not my husband’s Holy Spirit, nor my children’s.” Definitely guilty there, too.

And even while all of this is still permeating the surface of my mind, God invites me to practice.

My oldest daughter is in tears over something her little brother has said. I turn from the sink of dirty dishes, and encourage apologies and forgiveness from their lips. I hear a mumbled “Sorry” and “I forgive you” through tight lips, see arms encircling one another even while their eyes and bodies pull them in the other direction. I accept it as good enough and return to my dishes.  She retreats to her bed and I find her sobbing into her pillow.

“You said you forgave him, but you still seem very upset. Maybe you weren’t ready yet to forgive him? Maybe you need to think about it some more? Or talk about it maybe?”

She looks up from her pillow with damp face and dripping nose, “I don’t know what it means to forgive someone.”

I feel myself stand straighter, preparing to teach a lesson to her young heart. I want her to know this, she needs to know this, and I should explain it until she understands. I open my mouth, but then stop, remember…

I am not your Holy Spirit.

I climb down from my soap box, and kneel beside her instead. I whisper to her the things that I know about forgiveness, and tell her it’s okay if she doesn’t understand. The Holy Spirit will teach her. We pray together and then, because she asks to, I leave her to write a prayer of her own.

It’s easy to cross the line from being my children’s teacher, to being their Holy Spirit. I often go into the Holy Spirit’s territory, thinking that it’s mine. But I’m starting to recognize the boundary.

Just as Timothy’s mother prepared the soil of his heart for the seeds that would be planted by the Holy Spirit, so I am to prepare the soil of my children’s hearts. Perhaps at times I will be privileged to do a bit of planting or watering, but it is never my job to make things grow–to coerce green shoots and ripe fruit through my own power and wisdom. That is the Holy Spirit’s work.

My job is to tend the soil. To make sure it is well-nourished, free of stones and weeds, and properly turned and furrowed and ready to receive the seeds that the Spirit wants to plant.

My daughter has come to me to show me the prayer she’s written. I notice she’s prayed to the Holy Spirit, not to God nor to Jesus, but to the Holy Spirit. I pray for her, too, inviting the Holy Spirit to come into those secret corners of her heart and fill them with Truth. To teach her, in ways that I could never begin to, about what it means to forgive a brother.