A baby cradled within the dark waters of the womb is wooed to sleep by the rhythm of his mother’s gentle voice; a voice mysterious yet somehow more familiar to him than his newly formed frame. This mystery is nurtured for nine months, and then after a shattering beauty, continues over a lifetime.

A mother and her baby have an intimate connection like no one else can know, yet before the birth, neither knows the other fully. Pregnant mothers wait and wonder: “Who are you? Who will you become?” Meanwhile, baby is content knowing nothing of what is and what is to come. Birth spins their world upside down and for a brief moment both mother and baby desperately search for their companion. This feeling becomes a familiar one; from knowing, to knowing nothing.

And this paradox of the familiar unfamiliar repeats itself over and over.
It happened to me as I was in Chicago, sitting in a chapel adorned with paintings of Christian saints.

A massive crucifix hung on the wall, drawing my eyes constantly away from thea gentle Jesuit priest, Father Michael Sparough, who was teaching Christian leaders gathered that afternoon. I sat next to a giant of a man in my eyes, literally and figuratively, named Jonathan Martin. We partnered to share in lectio divina, an exercise in listening to the Spirit through Scripture, as practiced for over a millennium by Catholics.

We closed our eyes and listened to Father Michael tenderly read of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10. I held my hands open in an attempt to quiet the chaos in my mind. Suddenly I imagined someone – anyone – from my previous evangelical context peering into the window. I cannot explain the weird mix of terror and humor that instantly bubbled up; but I managed somehow to wrestle it down and return to the story.

It was one I had heard countless times in revivals, camp-meetings, and sermons, but I had run far, far from my Pentecostal roots, and the knack for emotional immaturity and spiritual presumption it produced in me. I had grown increasingly weary of taking my spiritual temperature in an effort to convince myself and others that I was fiery about God. I wanted something wiser than the persistent question of how God and I felt about each other. I found what I was looking for in the oddity of liturgical prayer and worship. There I sat practicing lectio divina with a Jesuit priest and my Pentecostal hero. (Sounds like the beginning of a good joke.)

But something strangely familiar happened that day.  Father Michael led us through this Catholic practice that I was taught to disdain, when suddenly I heard a voice;, that same Spirit-fire of Pentecost speaking to me through the text as Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well”.

Your faith. It echoed.
And it seized me, the feeling of being carried along in those dark waters again. Spirit hovered. A familiar defiance.

No, I would not let the myriad of voices, real or imagined, shutdown or outshout this primal cry for the Son of David in me. It was that boldness of Pentecost finding me again, now through the ancient prayer of the Catholic church. The irony was astounding!  My world seemed to contract, and birth me back into the wild, only that I might come face-to-face with that most familiar voice which called me into existence.

 

So, I’ll leave you now with some wisdom from Jonathan:
“Walking in the Spirit is a way of constantly tracing your soul’s deepest longings back to the source… When Spirit turns out to be too big for THIS container, we think Spirit must be in THAT container-the revelation is, God has no containers!”

God. The familiar unfamiliar. The beauty and playfulness of Spirit, who is wildly beyond our knowing, and yet more intimate than a brother or sister.

 

See more at: https://www.thecommonyear.com/february

 

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