Pentecost, or, Pentecostés

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. The day I get to wear the beautiful red stole I made myself one sunny Friday.

It’s also the day of the year when, as the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, I reflect on my own encounters in being led by the spirit of God.

I come from a tradition that, by my perception, tended to get a little nervous whenever someone would “go all charismatic” on us.

Last year during my chaplain residency, I had a bit of a rough time getting in good with the PICU nurses. One night I was on call and every few minutes I would head up to check on the PICU as they were having a busy night. Each time I rounded up there, I arrived just as they were about to page me. I called my friend to share that I’d worked so hard to build those relationships that the PICU and I were now one and I could anticipate their needs.

She calmly stifled her laughter and evenly said: ” um, I’m pretty sure it’s less about that and more about you being so in tune to the spirit’s leading that you’ve become God’s best version of you at your job. That’s awesome.”

Huh. As odd as it sounds, even being in a chaplain residency, being in tune to the spirit as the reason I did my job well didn’t occur to me. How embarrassing to admit.

I understand though. I never really knew what to do with “the spirit.” It was always some kind of floating entity that was supposed to be a holy comforter- and was usually a holy confusion.

But then I went to Mexico, to spend 8 weeks as a summer translator for mission teams, and experienced my own “Pentecost” of sorts. I am indeed fluent in Spanish, but I promise you, there’s no way the interpreting I did on the fly had anything to do with my linguistic skills. After that first summer, my whole spiritual life changed.

One summer, I got to use my social work skills and pastoral skills to counsel a woman with a horrific history of abuse. Having no actual experience (just classroom role play) in this kind of counseling and knowing the extensive damage an untrained counselor could cause, I spent the three hours before she came to meet with me in prayer and listening for the spirit of God to use me to help this lady.

Every time Pentecost rolls around, I think of that day- of how nervous I was to cause more harm than good, of how afraid I was that my care for her would be completely inadequate, of how selfish (in retrospect) I was for not giving God the joy of watching me trust God’s spirit to lead me, which of course is what happened.

Tomorrow, my red stole will remind me of the spirit’s fire within me, within each of us. It will remind me of the many life wounds that still lay open and bleeding, in need of a soothing word or listening ear. Tomorrow I will be reminded that the spirit of the lord is on ME, and has empowered ME to be that listening ear, to speak that soothing word, to bind those wounds, to show God’s love with my life.


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