wind photo compliments of morguefile.com
Being overwhelmed feels like sensory overload. There’s too much stuff in your head. You crave space, quiet, nothingness. When at last the grace of quiet comes, you awaken not to the nothing you envisioned, but to a myriad of somethings.
I found I could save a trip last week if I simply stayed put after a doctor’s appointment and picked my son up straight from school. That left a few hours so I drove to the library. I saw a bench overlooking the water and sat down with my lunch. Across the river I saw man/boys in school uniforms squatting together in a circle. There was a stick which turned out to be two sticks which turned out to be fishing poles. I wondered where you could put in a good word for the man/boys toward future quests for education and employment. They would, I believed, make better humans for having fished on their lunch hour, than having either strutted somewhere for the women/girls or studied. After that I noticed the way the balsamic vinegar had soaked in just enough to make the cherry tomato halves on my fork spectacular, but not enough to make them something other than tomatoes.
On the tractor, I discovered a third color of trillium on the property. The white and pink are the same species, I learned. The red are not. Hanging laundry, I saw a gray tree frog attempting camouflage along the cracked paint of the hand railing. We found each other curious.
I observed the irony of tractors. Going places in cars drives me to distraction. Driving a tractor in circles in a field makes me peaceful and reflective. I turned off the computer and noticed the feel of a pen in my hand. Watched my handwriting, sloppy and unpracticed across the page, breathe in and breathe out. It’s slower on the uptake. But no amount of pen clicking on the lined notebook page could interrupt the space of now with the distraction of the internet.
I realized that my husband had been talking about tea. I noticed his focus. Unlike his placement of personal possessions, his approach to iced tea is highly systematic. There is a perfect amount of lemon; he will find it. A perfect number of spearmint leaves. A perfect temperature at which to leave the tea bags for a specific amount of time. Like a beagle on the trail, he is on it. I noticed it was to my preferences that he is measuring the standard of perfection.
These were my first whispers of wind and fire. My personal invitation to Pentecost.
The Spirit descends when we’re looking and when we’re not. Spirit that is. Blood in the veins. Wind in the grass. Creek water in the rush of spring. Soul food at a well worn kitchen table. Black gold compost for the garden. Morning’s light for another round of unremarked upon photosynthesis to feed the world. Spirit that drives through time like a second hand on a watch. Ignored by all but track stars, yet insistent and unremitting in it’s creation of minutes, hours, time. Spirit with the earthy rich sounds of a woman with her eyes closed and her hands open as she sings. She’s black singing to an all white crowd who doesn’t get it. She’s known fear and sadness and could yell about it, but opts to sing instead about deliverance. Because it’s bigger. And they need it.
Because the one thing you can say for certain about Pentecost is that it comes.
We are broken, all of us. If we do not weep this night, we have wept another night. Some tears we taste. Others carve unseen a myriad of hidden rivers, our insides quietly rearranged without our having any choice about the holes, their shape, their size.
This is what makes us so nervous about loving each other. We’re not that put together ourselves. Touching broken people reminds us about the rivers.
On the good days, we’re Swiss cheese in clothes talking cheddar. Other days (against our wishes) we go topless covered only by post it notes with arrows pointing to the holes. In a world of hurting people, our own holes ache to be filled but the when and how are confusing.
Suffering come with complicated formulas. It’s okay to be suffering only if the diameter of my pain exceeds my neighbor’s. Measurements in my favor spell relief. But carrying rulers to relegate sorrows hurts everybody.
When my neighbor’s pain exceeds my own, it stops me short. What do I even have to offer them?
How do I love into the abyss?
My neighbor’s apartment is on fire. (This is a metaphor.) I am afraid to look at the flames. They bother me. Keep me up at night. I don’t need reminding. My eyes still burn from the smoke of my own recent fire. The power is out. There is one glass of water half full on my counter. The fire department is not here. They are supposed to be here. No one knows if they’re coming. Maybe my neighbor told them not to. What if she wants her place to burn?
Share your water, love whispers.
That much water cannot stop a fire. It’s not enough even to quench her thirst, I say.
Love waits for me to see.
It isn’t about rescue. We aren’t saviours. And yet by simple things have each of us saved. The 1/4 cups of water, half the kingdoms of our fellow pilgrims offered freely where they could not possibly make the difference between life and death. And yet they have.
When all is dark, it is in the arms of these moments that we are held. There is no promise for tomorrow to grab hold of (except by wings of faith notoriously difficult to strap on properly enough to stay in place). But there are moments of brokenness into which we can declare each other beloved.
The woman who washed God’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair didn’t fix anything. The feet were going to be dirty and smelly the next day. She washed them anyway.Tomorrow’s addictions and confusions will haunt unheeding of our sacrifice. But we offer the treasure of our love and into the ground a stake is struck.
I believe, we say to each other, you will be well. Whether or not I live to see your wellness, my love is not wasted on you. I see here, now, the promise of your wholeness.
We are ill suited to save each other but to love like this, into the abyss of dusty roads and canyons, perhaps this is what we were made to do.
I have been thinking a lot about Pentecost. I got hung up a little bit wondering why it was so small. How, I wondered, could the observance of an event that kicked off the official start of the largest, most enduring organization on earth range from a blip of remembrance to blank stares? Shouldn’t the birthday of the Christian church be a big deal?
But wanting to march in too many parades is a quick way to wind up miserable. Besides, the truth is, Pentecost passed me without much notice last year and some years before that. This year, there’s an inexplicable Pentecost bee in my bonnet. The buzz has been impossible to ignore, so I have been pondering Pentecost and what it means that God gives us mystery.
Pentecost is a bit like God showing up one day at the door with a gift, invisible of course, but no denying its existence, we can feel the weight in our hands. God says we need the gift, He loves us, and then He leaves.
Don’t worry about how everything turns out, He tosses over his shoulder. You’ve got the gift now.
For the rest of your life you know what the gift is, sort of, but you have no clue what the gift is exactly. What you do know is that since you received the gift, you are not the same as you were before. Sometimes you actually know this, like you know that standing in the sun feels warm, other times it’s a matter of faith. A lot of times you can’t see clearly what the gift is giving now as much as you can see it looking back at then.
Which I guess answers my own question about why the whole celebration has never really caught on that widely or crossed over into mainstream culture. If you tried to sell it to Hallmark they would have no way of making it tidy. If you think about it too long, Pentecost is a bit unsettling. It’s not a warm greeting card kind of feeling.
Pentecost says, Jesus came as one of you, but I remain beyond what you can imagine. You accepted a baby. Well done. Now let me set you aflame with the fire of Me. Afterwards, you will never be the same. Flesh and blood. Mystery. Forever and ever intertwined. Yes?
Pentecost is a voice on the wind. Whispers of a love that roars and takes no prisoners. One minute tearing you off your feet. Teaching you to walk again. Asking you to run. Another minute gently wiping your tears, sitting vigil with you at your private groanings.
The only question about Pentecost really, is which way to run. As far away as possible, or headlong into the wind?