by Charles LaFond
My experience of the Holy Spirit is largely through three very holy women. Well. Holy and mischievous. And a tiny bit scary. And so wonderful.
The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity – One God in three expressions. We know that. It’s basic theology to our church. But I am not sure we have taken the time to appreciate it because I think that The Holy Spirit sort of freaks us out. Well, at least she freaks me out. I think we humans like control. We westerners love control. We Episcopalians adore control. As for Catholics well, you get my drift. And The Holy Spirit – she giggles at control and up-turns it almost out of sheer mischievousness, enjoying flustering pale, white me in black.
There is not a lot written about her, perhaps because the Trinity was developed by the church. It’s not like the Bible, with its many books of information about God (some of it, not very flattering – ok – much of it.) It’s also not like the boys of the New Testament in which Jesus is portrayed four times over in differing versions. And then follow the many letters, running commentary like the sports-casters reviewing a game from every possible angle, each with the baggage from their own careers (long-ended) in sports and, questionable. There is just not a lot written about The Holy Spirit and yet I think She is my favorite – which is a strange thing for me to see myself write on a page – a strange thing with which to “go public.” But I am old and have survived a train collision and no longer care whom I upset. There is freedom in that even if no ecclesial elevation.
I find it amusing that the church adamantly proposes that The Holy Spirit exists and then shuts her out of the conversation like an embarrassing old, drunk, gassy aunt nobody talks about and yet, about whom everybody is constantly musing, stiffening as she enters the room as if she might overhear our thoughts. And somehow has.
And that’s the thing. She does. And that’s probably what so freaks us out. She is like the CIA of God. Constantly listening. Constantly leaving coded messages in chop sticks and in sunglasses that explode after hearing the message. She is always flitting about – down the street looking like a homeless lady but then when you turn around she is gone. Or worse, She is looking at you and then gone.
There are three old woman in my life – and I define old as one year older than my age at any given time – so they are older than 53. Each has a different role. Each of them has grey or white hair. Each is very different than the other.
One is quiet, short and small; and when she smiles she tilts her head like a fairy with a mischievous smile. She dresses like an artist in loose linen, and is an artist, but her paints are wisdom.
One is loud, tall and has arms and hands which wander the air-space like the tentacles of a playful octopus. She has wild, long, white hair and crazy glasses which change daily to match her boots, which are also crazy. She wears red and purple and lime green, sometimes together, and is madcap. She playfully goads, challenges and prods. She is immensely wise and equally willing to poke fun at her own failings. She knows people and she wants people be happy more than she wants people to conform or obey or assimilate. She giggles at prudes.
One is quiet. She listens and is like Yoda, wondering always “Is that so?” She has a wrinkle for every soul she has helped to heal, like badges of honor pinned by God to her face. She loves everyone but respects only the deserving. She tells the truth with the kind of recklessness which will always stunt a career but enflame a vocation. Some Bishops and cardinal-rectors tend to steer clear of her lest she see emperors with no clothes. And I love her for that.
Each of these women would have been burned alive at the stake only six or seven hundred years ago by clergy who looked a lot like Voldemort – pasty, sallow, bookish with arrogant accents and smug demeanors. These women would have been charged with heresy or using the wring fork and the charges would be right if heresy is little more than a few people who dare to ask too many questions. Know too much. Know stuff and not have titles to protect them.
These three women, the nymph, the rebel and the crone are my counsel. When I think I am seeing something I do not understand I go to them. When I am harming myself with over-work or a lack of discernment, they pipe up. When I am not being my best self, they cock an eyebrow. When I am hurt, I go to them and they hold me in three different ways; healing different parts of me the way different doctors in a hospital heal in different ways – the ophthalmologist, the endocrinologist, the neurologist – doctors all, but working so differently with different tools and poking at different parts.
I do not know who God is, not exactly; but I can see God when God shows up. I do not know who Jesus is, but He too is clearly evident and a valuable bridge to the God of “Holy, Holy, Holy” fame. And perhaps I do not know much even about The Holy Spirit, but I know her some through the three old crones who so wonderfully hold my psyche when I am in trouble and encourage me like a mother when I am not.
God shows up as thundering power. Jesus shows up as powerful love. But The Holy Spirit shows up as disruptor, challenger, mischief-maker and Holy Feminine Wisdom; and I look for her the way children look for fairies – sure of Her existence, sure also of Her love of me…and a little scared of finding her.