I have so many thoughts about Pentecost that it is difficult for me to write about it! Hence the lateness of this post. “Come, Holy Spirit!” How I prayed, but many unfinished drafts litter my drafts folder, and no real idea.
About to give up and put the finishing touches on my post for tomorrow, a book review of “Under the Influence of Jesus” (Loyola Press) by Joe Paprocki, I took a look at Facebook. Right there before my eyes a new post popped up on the Loyola Press page, a video about Pentecost from Joe himself. I stopped to watch and Holy Spirit inspiration came in a mighty wind!
Joe uses the analogy of a tremendous amount of debt amnesty along with the influx needed to start a new business. I’ll post the video so that you can see it for yourself. His use of the phrase “what God has done for us,” got me thinking.
What has God done for us? It may seem to many that God has done nothing, to the point of them not believing, even feeling animosity for this God that they don’t believe in. Some people believe that God is playing some sort of cruel cosmic practical joke because their lives feel so messed up. (I’ve been in that place many times!) Some people feel like they are getting special favors from God because they have been so obedient. The list goes on and on, with many variations to it.
Back to the video and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration via Joe, my mind immediately went back to a time when I was in a huge amount of debt. (Debt has been a lifelong struggle for me, for what it’s worth.) At this time, over 20 years ago, I was a deeply angry person full of resentments. Various forms of therapy and groups that I tried to belong to pointed to finding gratitude, something I (surprise) sneered at. Just the question “what are you grateful for?” would send me into a rage.
My answer at the time would have been, “Grateful? For what? This is a pile of ?*!#! How can I be grateful for this ?*!##y mess!” And yes, it is embarrassing to tell you this. And even more so, because I was acting pretty piously at the time, in my recently rekindled faith.
Anyway, in an effort to do something practical about my debt, I did something with some money that I had access to. Clearly my endless prayers and novenas were doing nothing to get that God of cruel practical jokes on my side by giving me a windfall.
A few months later it was tax time, and I was knocked down by what my accountant told me… I owed a lot of money to the IRS. Well, well – my brilliant idea resulted in me getting access to cash, but to a huge tax burden in the end. More debt.
Yet, something happened that day, something that to this day I cannot explain in any practical terms. It was a Pentecost moment for me. Upon picking myself up emotionally from that piece of news, I realized that there was a sentiment welling up in me. That sentiment was gratitude. It was such a strange feeling that I had no idea what it was. It was so strange that it overwhelmed any typical rage that might have emitted from me.
It took a little while for me to figure out that the rage that I was expecting and actually trying to access was not quite where it used to me. That made absolutely no sense to me, maddening in and of itself! “Where is my RAGE? Dammit! I just had it, it was right here!” But no, it was not. Something in me felt split open, and I realized that what I was feeling was a bizarre combination of gratitude and joy. There were no words for this. It was a classic Liz Lemon “what the what” moment, although Liz Lemon was not yet in the cultural milieu.
That moment was life changing indeed. No, God did not send the Holy Spirit to pay my tax bill. Some unexpected financial help did arrive, but that was not the point. The point was, despite my intransigence, the Holy Spirit broke through the thick skin of my bitterness to reveal things I had little foreknowledge of, that being gratitude and joy. It felt weird, but powerful enough so that I went along with it. Trust me, I was not crazy about going along with it, but what other choice did I have at the time?
So here I am, years on, still dealing with the residue of some money challenges, but obviously not quite in the same place, physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually. Which is of course why I am in a different place. Even though it was not a May or June day, my own personal Pentecost came to me, giving me some understanding. It started with the challenge of an unfamiliar reaction and feelings, and the journey continues.
While this story is about “money,” like the video, it is not about money at all. It is about what God has done for me, what God has done for us. God gives me no special favors that God would not give to anyone, no matter who, no matter what.
Pentecost is that illuminating moment in our Church when we collectively remember what God has given, what God has done for us. It is a moment when we can begin to understand one another in Christ. And each day, Pentecost or not, may we continue to give thanks for all that God gives, no matter how awful it seems at the time. Sure, get angry first, God can take it, but then open your mind and heart, or let God do that for you. I’m never quite sure how it happens, but I am always grateful that it does. And if you are not there yet, so be it. My prayer is that the moment comes for all of us, a moment that happens again and again.
Tomorrow please tune in for a review of Joe’s book. Here is the video I mentioned earlier in the post.