The meditations in A Season for the Spirit give a lot to consider. However, Smith encourages us not to make this an effort to take it all in but, rather, to ‘stay with what you find inviting.’ Of course, he does not mean ‘what you find most comfortable and pleasing.’ Instead, he is reminding us that the Holy Spirit is the real guide of these exercises and we are exhorted, as with any prayer with a text (like lectio divina), to stop and tarry long where the Spirit says to.
Today, that place for me was not primarily in Smith’s words but in the Scripture passage he points us to at the end of his meditation – Romans 12:12-27. One line in particular:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption (v. 13).
That line was lingering in every cell of my body when I logged on to Morning Prayer with the Abbey and we heard Deuteronomy 7 read from the lectionary:
It was because the Lord loved you… that the Lord has brought you out… from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh (v. 8).
Whoosh. Holy Spirit doing her thing…
A friend of mine mentioned recently that taking on a discipline at the gym has helped him understand some of St. Paul’s teachings that involve running a race or physical training. “Until now, they have mostly been metaphor but now I can really feel what he means about how spiritual growth works by feeling the micro-tears that are making my muscles grow…”
Today I am thinking about how we do not have a spirit of slavery but a spirit of adoption. It is a metaphor. Yet there are some who have known a spirit of slavery in their own flesh. For them the metaphor has more particular poignancy. It does not matter what anyone does to me or how they claim or define my body. It does not matter what kind of terror is pumped into the atmosphere. Jesus Christ is my Master, Friend, and Brother. God has freed me from a spirit of slavery that I should fall back into fear. I have a Spirit of adoption as a beloved child of the Most High God.
Paul was descended from a people who had that legacy of slavery, literally. And a people who still had to tiptoe around the oppression of the empire around them.
So am I.
There is liberation to be wrought from these active forces that still dominate the structures of our culture.
AND, also, – this Lent God is pointing out: as your ancesters were freed by a mighty hand, do you know that I have freed you from that spirit of slavery. Let me remove it from the neurochemicals that wash your flesh and the hypervigilance that makes you jump, and the wounds that would make themselves your story. Recall that spirit of adoption, my child, and release the spirit of fear. Let me do in your own being what I have done and will continue to do for your people – you know their stories. Now do you understand My metaphor?
Smith’s own reflection was about how Jesus stepped into the muddy water, taking on all the washing and pain and need and solidarity of humanity. This, Smith says, is the way of compassion, for which the Creator called Jesus, “Beloved.”
But, I have to stay, I don’t think it’s co-passion, if you get in those waters out of pity. True solidary comes when you dare to tarry with the spirit of slavery within yourself and realize how much you are in that water not to save anyone but to be set free together.
What is your spirit of slavery? Is it White fragility or guilt? Abuse? Sexism or Homophobic exclusion? Are you enslaved to a fear of failure or success? And where in your lineage is bondage not just a metaphor? Because whatever you were freed from – that’s how liberated God wants to make our souls.
Every step I take in meditation to intensify my awareness of the love of God poured into my heart through the gift of your indwelling, will take me into a deeper indentification with the suffering world, ‘groaning in travail together until now (Martin Smith).”
The Rev. adwoa Wilson