Wednesday, May 9, 2018
The Holy In-Betweens (Newsletter)
Fire. Light. Wind. Breath. Water. We find all of these images, and others, in Christianity’s lexicon of symbols for the Holy Spirit. To varying degrees, all of these things share the characteristic of being able to seep into the nooks and crannies of the world, thus revealing what I call the invasive grace of God. Through the Holy Spirit, God seeps in to be present and active where God is neither expected, nor welcome, nor acknowledged. I find God’s capacity to percolate indiscriminately in the world most upsetting when I catch myself imagining God confined to some container of my own making.
“We are threatened by anything that we cannot control,” says Richard Rohr, “that part of God ‘which blows where it will’ (John 3:8)…We look for God ‘out there,’ and the Spirit is always ‘in here’ and ‘in between’ everything…Now even science is revealing to us that the energy of the universe is not in the particles or planets—but in the relational space between them! And we are having a hard time measuring it, controlling it, predicting it, or inhibiting it. It sounds an awful lot like Spirit.”1
Our culture finds itself in a time of increasing division and enmity, and not simply between opposing views but between opponents. Like everyone else, I have my own opinions, and one way to begin paying attention to the holy “relational space between” disparate opinions is to acknowledge the differences. Rather than calling us to judgment, this invites us to stand in humble reverence of the spaces – the realm of the Holy Spirit’s energy and work. And that can be a painful place to stand, because right now the spaces can feel like chasms.
When treating a significant laceration, a doctor doesn’t begin by immediately sewing it up just to hold the skin together. She irrigates the wound first, clearing it of visible and invisible debris that could cause infection, and, thus, more serious trouble. She looks carefully at the damaged tissue lining that new and tender in-between place. She imagines how the raw and jagged edges can be reintroduced. She wants the site of healing, the forever-apparent scar, to be strong.
Pentecost is May 20th. This celebration marks more than “the birthday of the Church.” It reminds us that all those in-between spaces within the Creation are alive with fire, and water, and light. They are alive with God’s redeeming Spirit. The body of Christ is called to be intentionally and patiently present in those spaces, each of us humbly honest with our thoughts and feelings, and gratefully aware of the thoughts and feelings of others. To do so is to hold one another in prayer. After beginning with a prayerful posture, humbly, compassionately, and gratefully, then and only then might our actions flow among us like the dynamic and eternal flow of love among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.