(Dust cloud approaching Stratford, Texas, 1935, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Daily Office Readings for Friday, April 26, 2019:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
Every time I hear this line from our Gospel reading, I can’t help but think of an angry Jack Nicholson, in the movie A Few Good Men, screaming at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” Never mind that the movie is an angry interchange, and in our reading, Jesus is among his best friends in ministry. Any time someone tells us we aren’t ready to hear something yet, no matter how kind or well-intentioned they are when they tell us, it still feels like a gut punch. We hear those voices from our life history and experience telling us that we’re “too something” (too young, too old, etc.) to understand, or we’re “not something enough” to understand.
Add onto that, in the context of our reading, when Jesus tells this to the disciples, he had just said he was leaving them to be with the Father. “Whaddya mean, ‘I can’t bear them now?’ It’s gotta be now, because you just told us you were leaving us! So what am I supposed to do with that?” It must have felt like Jesus was just walking off into a big, thick dust cloud, and leaving them hanging.
Yet, Jesus also told the disciples they would never be alone, that the Spirit would be there to guide them and be with them. All the same, it’s likely that statement went right over their heads, given the emotions they have had to navigate. Remember, this was the same guy, who not long ago, died on the cross. Then, next thing you know, he’s resurrected…and just when folks are getting settled into to having Jesus back, he turns around and tells the disciples he’s leaving again. When we are riding the roller coaster of our own emotions, it’s hard to feel anyone accompanying us, because our intense emotions about uncertainty–and being told we’re not ready to hear the truth–obscure the view of the big picture. The reality is, Jesus will be speaking to the disciples–no longer one-on-one–but with one degree of separation, one step removed, through the Holy Spirit.
Fast forward to today. If we can simply push the visceral sting of being told, “You’re not ready for this yet”, and we can take a deep breath and truly ponder it, the reality is we can all identify places in our lives, that, had we known what was going to happen, we wouldn’t have been ready for it, we wouldn’t have handled it well, and it might even have caused us to resist even more, out of stubbornness and pride. (I get a good chuckle thinking about if someone had told the 32 year old me, “You’re going to be a priest in 25 years.” I can only imagine the string of epithets that would have come out of my mouth!)
We live in an age of instant expectations for our requests. Hungry? Go through the drive-thru window. Can’t remember the capital of New Hampshire? Google it. Forgot to tell our loved ones something as they went out the door? Text ‘em. Our speed of light world has obscured the value–and the beauty–of waiting, and the gift of not yet knowing.
Yeah, you heard that right…the gift of not yet knowing…because, you see, when we don’t know, the unknowing is an opportunity to lean in and hold onto Jesus just a little more tightly. We might even feel that the disciples were one up on us; they at least got to know Jesus in the flesh, we don’t get that luxury. Yet that same Advocate, that same Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is still here and still refusing to abandon us in our discontent, our grief, and our unknowing. The unknowing is the invitation for us to scan for glimpses of Jesus in the company we keep, or in the people we pass on the street. It’s the opportunity to listen and observe what the Holy Spirit is waving in front of our noses or whispering in our ears.
Yes, sometimes what comes to pass is exactly what we fear–and sometimes, it isn’t. Yet, the Holy Spirit is always there, regardless of the outcome. Sometimes, in our not knowing, over time we come to learn that whatever transpired or evolved ended up better than we imagined or would have scripted…and the truth is, we wouldn’t have been able to handle it. We would very likely have gone off in another direction and missed the gift.
When is a time in your life that it was just as well you hadn’t known what was about to transpire in your life? Looking back, where was the Holy Spirit in it all?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as the Interim Pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Rolla, MO.