“Please know that even though I can’t be with you, I’ll be with you in spirit.” Such is the kind of expression I have used when I could not attend something in person. Even though I couldn’t “be there” I wanted others to be assured that, in heart, I truly desired to be. In other words my personal absence did not indicate my total absence. I would still be present, if only “in spirit.” Such was meant in hopes of some degree of comfort.
Comfort comes with the phrase “I’ll be with you in spirit” or “I’m with you in spirit.” A young man goes into a devastating battle with the awareness of his mother’s faithful intercessory prayer. And from the distance of many miles, he will take her comforting words that she would still “be there in spirit.” A husband & father is assured that, no matter what, his wife, and mother of their children, although separated by strange countries and turbulent conflict, will always be with him “in spirit.” A dying individual endearingly speaks to those who will soon become surviving loved ones, “Remember, no matter what happens here, I’m always with you in spirit.” Comfort. Assurance.
My father, a WWII Army Air Corps bomber pilot, once told me of his first solo flight as a young pilot-in-training. My dad flew numerous times in a 2-seater Stearman biplane, where the instructor always managed the “sticks” from the rear seat position. When it was time for my father to take his first solo flight he was assured by his instructor, “Remember, if you get into trouble, you will hear my words speaking in your head just as if I was sitting right behind you.” Although the instructor would be absent from the cockpit, he would still be present with the pilot.
What was Jesus intending to communicate to the gathered followers? Just before His Ascension Jesus said, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 NET). With similar assurance and comfort right before his impending departure from this earth, Jesus told his troubled disciples, These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:25-26 ESV). Then there was the added, Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7 ESV) Although Jesus’ words were not just to be taken figuratively, his intention was still the same, to offer comfort and assurance. Although Jesus would be absent from them, by His Spirit He would still be present with them.
So today, how am I helped in the midst of much turbulent conflict? How am I comforted where there is seeming devastation of all that I have known? What is my assurance as I face the unknown? While I may feel like I’m flying solo, I must always listen to the Spirit who faithfully reminds me of what I have already been taught. He may not be in my “cockpit circumstance” but He will always be close, with me.