We just saw The Avengers movie the other day--Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, and a couple of others I can't remember. They all have some kind of power that kicks in right when they need it, so they can vanquish evil and good can triumph. Today is Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. We were talking about this over lunch with our kids. What does the Holy Spirit really mean in our lives? And while we were talking about promptings and gifts and all those things, I thought, "Wow, this kind of sounds like super powers."
And personally, I've never felt like I have super powers. Everyone around our table agreed to a lack of the same.
So then I started to think about the times when I have known for sure that the Holy Spirit was doing something for me through somebody else. I have several of those stories, but I want to share just one, out of my journal from 2002. We were living in the Solomon Islands.
I can't believe we've been in the village for nearly a month already. On the other hand, it feels like years. I started to get bored and restless this week, feeling so pathetic and useless. I don’t do anything spectacular. I just teach my kids and cook. Is this really the missionary work I was called to do?
I really do think that the best thing I can do right now is support Andy and teach the kids, but it's not always so personally fulfilling as one might hope. And I might as well be an alien from Mars, for all the sense my culture makes to these people. They are so kind to me, so precious to my kids. And yet I want more. I want to know and be known. To share my heart and have someone share theirs in return.
I know in my head that I need to keep realistic expectations. But my heart still wishes for that close friendship. I still want it, no matter how unrealistic it may be to expect it. One of those "not until heaven" things, I guess.
Andy, after long years of experience, can sense this mood in me from a mile off. There’s nothing he can do, and we both know it. But Saturday afternoon, we sneak off from the kids and go for a walk along the beach. Even I have been known to cheer up on the beach.
We meet up with this old lady down at the beach, wearing a bright green skirt and nothing else. Breasts hanging down to her waist, tattoos in between her breasts. As soon as she sees me, she cries out with pleasure: “Oh my daughter, oh my daughter.”
I have never, in ten years, had anyone call me by a kinship term; I hardly know how to respond.
Is she really calling me her daughter? But she doesn’t just say it once—she keeps repeating it.
She puts both arms around me and hugs me, holds me.
I’ve had plenty of women hold my hand out here, but I’ve never, ever had anybody hug me.
She goes on and on, talking and laughing, holding my hand now, so happy that I am there. While I of course am doing nothing spectacular—not even leading a Bible study. She is just thrilled that I am there, doing nothing, saying nothing, just there.
This morning I was thinking about her again and I was reminded of Elijah, under his broom tree, telling God to go ahead and let him die. I thought about Elijah, so tired and alone, no longer asking for a blessing, just asking for an end. Seeing great things happen through him, and too exhausted to ask for anything to happen in him. And the angel came and touched Elijah.
And I thought that this lady was my angel with her hard old hands and her great soft breasts and her tattoos and her pipe of tobacco and her pleasure at my existence. And I realized that, like Elijah’s angel, she was the answer to a prayer I hadn’t even had the heart to pray.
Now if you asked May, she would probably tell you that she's never had super powers either. But the rest of us can see the Holy Spirit prompting and gifting and empowering like crazy.
My son put it this way: "Well, I guess it's just that you show up like you're supposed to, and then God does something more."