Who's riding shotgun?

holy spirit ifs integration Feb 01, 2024
Photo by <a href=Ingo Doerrie on Unsplash " />

Last Sunday I facilitated a discussion in our women's group at church. It was focused on how we can foster a constant companionship with the Holy Spirit as our guide. I totally get it that the word "constant" sets a pretty high expectation and makes the part of me that is afraid of failure start biting her nails. Big hugs, Little Em! Stay with me on this one. You will like it. It's imagination time meets internal family systems theory (IFS).

I'm a very visual person. I think my life is like a VW van. I use to refer to it as a bus, but yesterday I decided I much prefer the van. In particular, the one from the movie Cars. I'm claiming Fillmore as my avatar. Inside the van I imagine that it is retrofitted just like my dad retrofitted our giant brown and white van growing up. It had a table with two benches and a bed that the luggage and a cooler fit underneath. It was such an awesome way to travel as a family, back before seat belts were a mandatory thing. Good memories!

That VW van has enough room for all the parts of me to hang out comfortably and do their thing. For those of you new to IFS, I'll explain a little more. Just like a family with different members that play different roles, we are each composed of different parts of our identity that have different roles in our internal system. We have a mom part that keeps us alive, curious parts that keep us seeking, and kid parts that have tantrums (for reasons that are very justifiable). Lots of different parts.

That's a very simplified explanation, but I have no doubt you have experienced this. For example, if somebody invited you to go to ladies night,  you may have had a discussion in your head that went something like this: part of me really wants to go because I always am so strengthened when I get to be with those ladies, part of me really wants to go because I'm afraid of missing out, part of me thinks I can't go because my house and kids will turn into chaos if I take a night off, and part of me is now critical of myself because I'm realizing my house is chaos even when I'm there. Four parts. Four different priorities and four different opinions about what you should do.

That's why we need a van with plenty of room in the back.

For now, we will focus on the front of the van though. There's a driver's seat and a passenger's seat. It has been so good for me to be aware of who is driving my van. Who decides whether or not I actually go to the ladies night activity? Who decides how I handle the chatter in my brain at bedtime or how I face a list of responsibilities in the morning?

Ideally, we can come to a place where our higher self or true self is driving our decisions, but the reality is that most of us get hijacked throughout the day by different parts with different fears or priorities. That's normal. And that's a discussion for another day.

Today is about the passenger's seat. Who is riding shotgun? Pondering the idea of the Holy Ghost being my constant companion made me rethink my image of the Emily Bus yesterday. In that metaphor I was alone as a driver up front with a big door that lets people off and on. Hmmm. That may be more accurate than I care to admit. One driver and lots of backseat drivers hollering out their fears and opinions. That's why I'm upgrading to a van.

There's a place in this van for a passenger right by my side. A navigator. A helper for when it's stormy and dark and I'm going someplace unfamiliar (my least favorite driving conditions in real life). Who do I ask to be in that seat? Who do I trust as my navigator?

My inner critic thinks she is very qualified, but the more healing integration work I'm doing, the less I am trusting that negative voice. That opens the space for a constant companion that is way more truthful, way more encouraging, and way more able to "think celestial" and whisper needed counsel when I'm struggling keep my van on the road.

What would it be like to have the Holy Ghost as my trusted navigator on my daily road trip? I really like that image. With a trusted navigator I'm not alone and I can settle in emotionally so much better. I'm still in charge of steering and regulating the gas and the break, but it's different. My navigator can help me avoid distractions, stay in my own lane, and know when I need a pit stop. Metaphorically, all three of those are things I struggled with this week.

This may seem like a silly way to visualize the relationship, but it helps the part of me that needs my relationship with the Comforter to be more comforting. I grew up being afraid to offend the Holy Ghost, and that fear of judgement and disapproval sometimes sabotaged my desire to really claim the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I'm grateful for the discussion on Sunday and for women mentors. I'm grateful for the opportunity to rethink what it means to have the Spirit as my constant companion and how I can create a space in my soul for that Companion to be by my side on my journey each day.