“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8a)
I’m not sure what mystifies me more: the unknowns of what I’m waiting for, how long I’m expected to wait or what to do in the meantime.
I carry an assumption that I’ll know it when I see it, but that doesn’t offer anything specific to hold on to. It sounds and feels wrong to say that I’m still looking for my life’s purpose; that light dawned brilliantly eons ago. For years, many of us affirmed that I was born to be a pastor, and I celebrate the places, people and perspectives that work offered me. The “it” I’m waiting for now bears more resemblance to a map for the next phase of the journey. Some refer to this as “the third chapter”; not so much “what am I going to do when I grow up” as “what am I going to do next”? As I ponder whether the robe and stole need to be laid to rest, I watch and wait for the sound of my soul stirring to wakefulness, hopeful for the sense of energized purpose that I believe is waiting for me somewhere.
When he was wrapping up loose ends and drawing things to a close, Jesus told his best buds to sit and wait for instruction on the next chapter. Go to Jerusalem and hang there until a messenger arrives with your assignment. And you can trust me on this: the packet will include everything you need for carrying the mission through the next phase. Actually he told them they’d receive power. Did that activate question marks in their eyebrows? Set them in search of sabers, mighty steeds and a platoon of soldiers? Or, did they have the wisdom to wonder about the potential combustion of ingredients they already carried when exposed to the mystery called Holy Spirit?
I’ve longed and prayed for a host of things in these days of waiting, most of them centered around a desire for clarity and insight. I can’t say that I’ve ever asked for or expected power. On a first (re)read of Jesus’ instructions, the notion caught me off guard. I think I’ve lived my days of power, fostering community, encouraging discipleship, stirring passions, peddling possibilities. No, from here on out, I expect whatever is approaching to be quieter and less center stage. I quickly followed that by saying, but who am I to presume the ways of God’s Spirit? It took awhile for my memory to stretch back to the times when I actually felt powerful: spaces in my life when I was centered, grounded, with roots pushing nutrients and wisdom into my being, veins pulsing with clarity about who I am, what I was called to do and all the resources I needed within reach. That kind of power I can pray for. It’s been so long since I felt anything resembling vitality pulsing in my innards that I’d welcome a dose of power.
What did the disciples do while they waited? He’d named destinations far and wide, so perhaps they packed bags, put things in order and did their best to be prepared. What are the hot button politics in Jerusalem? Trending issues in Judea? Weather in Samaria? What’s the latest from food pantries and homeless shelters, battlefields and refugee camps? Sandal soles repaired and empty chair filled, they swapped stories of what they’d seen and he’d done. Scrambling to make sense of where it would go from here or what could be in store for them, they gathered to pray. The sacred stories and songs of the past intertwined with rhythms and melodies from the road. As they joined their voices and opened their hearts, they soon knew God was in the room and the Spirit was on the move.
As for me, I’m grudgingly familiar with the notion of waiting, but rarely confident of what to do with it. I don’t see these as thumb twiddling, room pacing, toe tapping days, but what am I supposed to be doing? Prayer is the order of the day, but hands folded, eyes closed, world held at bay has only occasionally built a bridge between my soul and God. I need to find a way to live with heart wide open and eyes on the prowl for glimpses of the holy and inklings of call, attentive to whispers of the voices calling my name. In the meantime, I’ll employ my hands making bread for the journey, setting a table to bring lives together and scribbling words to give my soul voice.
A friend told me today that whether I know it or not, she believes I’m building a life in the here and the now, even with all of the unknowns I keep as companions. Her words reminded me of another friend who told that it was in the rear view mirror that he recognized the healing that had taken place and joy that had returned. Perhaps my Spirit visitation will come in increments and be seen in hindsight, and with power to fill my mouth with song and my soul with peace. However it comes, I’ll take it. Give me grace in the meantime and patience in the not yet arrived.