Inviting the Light: The Holy Spirit Gate Crashes No One’s Heart
By the Rev. Carole Wageman
A few years ago in late spring, I had just finished doing a Eucharist service at a local nursing home. This residence was always challenging for me because most of the residents had more advanced cases of dementia and I usually felt frustrated with my inability to feel particularly effective in my ministry there. I usually left feeling pretty discouraged. This particular day was no different. As I was gathering up my things and getting ready to leave, one of the staff came up to me and asked me, “Could you please spend a few minutes with one of the residents who is in the lunch room? She is over there and has been watching you intently for quite a while and wants to talk with you.”
This woman was a gentle soul whom I had seen before at the services. She took my hand, held it in hers, looked me straight in the eye and said (in a very lucid way), “Thank you for coming. It means a great deal to me that you come here. I always pray for you and I am grateful that you come all the time.”
Now, my rational “Sensible Self” told me that she probably didn’t remember the last time I was even there, and she might well have been confusing me with someone else. But there was something about what she said and how she said it that entered my demoralized heart and deeply moved me. It was as though a holy presence cradled her spirit, moved through her, and enabled her to be a vehicle for God’s uplifting grace that touched me so unexpectedly. I knew I had received much more than I had possibly given her that day. My somewhat dazed and amazed walk out of the building was much lighter than it had been when I arrived. But that was not the end of things this day.
As I was nearing my car, I dropped something I was carrying, and when I bent to pick it up, my attention was drawn to the grass I was standing on. For some reason I bent down to look closer and noticed there were the tiniest white flowers growing in among all the blades of grass. I never saw them before because I was usually too distracted with so many other “weighty matters” that I thought were really important. These small, white, fragile pieces of creation were so trivial and insignificant, but there they were—tucked down quietly in the grass day in and day out whether I saw them or not—growing peacefully and persistently even though I tromped over them constantly and carelessly and paid them no attention. They just prevailed in their loveliness.
“Maybe that is the way of God,” I thought…showering us constantly with these little moments of blessings and grace when we least expect it if only we tune in to touch them and let them touch us. Like those minuscule flowers in the grass or that unexpected blessing from that nursing home resident, signs of God’s elegance are sometimes hidden in the most unlikely places and will show up in the most astonishing ways.
We are now in the season of Lent and it is not typically thought of as being a season of watching for signs. That seems to be more of an Advent thing. Lent seems to be more of a penitential, repentant thing. Yet, maybe that is something to remember during this Lent: God’s constancy is not limited to a particular liturgical season. What if we were to spend this Lent carving out some room for God’s loveliness to strengthen our souls?
In her book, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year, Kimberlee Conway Ireton finds Lent to be a time to create space. She says:
I have come to see that my “sacrifice” during Lent is not somehow going to earn God’s favor or make me more acceptable to God…As long as those were my aims, I was missing the point. For the point of Lent isn’t what I give up, or even if I give anything up. The point is that I am intentionally creating space in my life for my relationship with God…it creates in us an emptiness where there used to be something (food, a book, a TV show), now there is a blank, a hole, a space. God longs for those blank, empty places in our lives – not for the sake of emptiness but so God can fill us with himself. If our bodies are too full of food or our lives too full of activity, we have no space for God to pour himself into us. (Inter Varsity Press Books, Illinois, 2008, pp. 75-76)
“For the point of Lent isn’t what I give up, or even if I give anything up. The point is that I am intentionally creating space in my life for my relationship with God.” – Kimberlee Conway Ireton
God weaves wonder into the tapestry of our lives through those God-shaped moments whether they be simple delights like a kind word from a nursing home resident or something more dramatic like drifting in our personal wilderness. Regardless of whether we are surprised by joy or stuck wandering and waiting, God does not leave us to wander alone but treks beside us through all things. God’s grace and love slip into our world and are showered upon us through the smallest window of opportunity. To be honest, it feels kind of refreshing—and we could use a little bit of that good news these days.
So, while the sobering words of “remember you are dust and to dust you will return” from Ash Wednesday recall us to the humility of our humanity, perhaps they might also be a reminder that our souls are held in the persistently abundant embrace of a loving God who seeks to draw us into his heart and invites us to meet him wherever it is we yearn to be met. After all is said and done, “the Holy Spirit gate-crashes no one’s heart. He waits to be received.” (William Barclay: The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, Revised Edition, p. 168).
Copyright © 2018 Carole A. Wageman. All rights reserved. NOTE: Similar stories from Scripture are explored more fully in my newly released book The Light Shines Through: Our Stories Are God’s Story by Church Publishing, Inc. Ordering available now at Hopkins Bookshop, Church Publishing or Amazon.com. Photo credit: Pixabay.com via Pexels.com.