by Laurie Gudim
Writing for me always involves a certain amount of anguished wrestling with a blank page. Sometimes there are thoughts I could develop that don’t seem very important. They don’t make the heart leap for joy or open the mind to wonder or invite the Soul to speak. Other times a vague something lures, just beyond reach. I yearn for it, but it is not accessible to my cognition. Its language is unclear. It doesn’t have enough form. It is powerful and raw, but also somehow vaporous, so that, grabbing after it, I come away only with bits of old spider web and maybe a dead leaf or two.
But once in awhile, there is a break-through. The Spirit bangs open the doors, rushes into the room and dances on my heart. My perspective shifts and I have both understanding and the words to share it. What I then know to say has a depth and grace sparked by listening to something much more vast and ancient than I am. It flames through my fingertips and onto the page.
I wonder if the followers of Jesus, gathered together in the house in Jerusalem after the Ascension, felt a kind of “speaker’s block”? “What can we possibly say?” they might have wondered. “How do we describe what we have witnessed? Was it even important, or are our broken hearts trying to conjure something up that isn’t even real? How do we talk to other people about what we know? What DO we know?”
The new understanding building in their hearts was wispy and inchoate. The words they spoke to each other about it were groping, a little crazy-sounding, flat as dry bark. And then the Holy Spirit roared through the doors.
Amid the tongues of dancing illumination, things got clear. Christ’s followers suddenly knew what they were trying to say, and they said it. They were so full of the telling that they seemed drunk. They spoke right to the hearts of their listeners.
It is in the understanding of persons like you and me that the rubber of Christianity meets the road. We are the followers of Christ today, and, as such each one of us needs to struggle to put into words what we know for sure about God and Jesus or our faith tradition will wither and die.
But it is often difficult to grasp what we must say. It is often just out of reach, too vague, too slippery. We have to listen for it in prayer, in silence, and in the agony of not knowing. We have to keep listening until it becomes clear, until the Holy Spirit lands on us with a tongue of fire.
As our reading from 1 Corinthians indicates, we do not then have to be great orators in order to communicate what we know. Each of us conveys what we understand in a different way; each has unique gifts, ways of serving, activities. For some it will be in speaking, for others in serving soup, and for others still, in helping people pay their taxes or in making beds. What matters is that we come to know what we truly know, and that our hearts generously express it.
What DO you know? What is your Pentecost message – the thing that makes you drunk with excitement – the truth of God you can assert for sure? The world needs you to know – and to share it.
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.