I Heard the Holy Spirit
Over these lasts weeks, I have had more conversations about sin than I can count. If I had my way I would call off these chats about confession, repentance, and absolution and sit down to enjoy a piece of pie and a cup of tea. But Lent is not a time of year when I get to declare the conversation over. However, with just a week or so left, I will be able to let off the gas a bit and hit “discussing sin” cruise control. Praise God.
As I have wondered in and out of these chats with my rector, Godmother, Spiritual Director, Bible study group, and others, it is not that I am worried about my sins, per se. Nobody has been killed, I’m not stealing, I’m not having affairs. That’s not the rub for me. It’s bigger than that. Much bigger. So big that I didn’t fully understand it myself until I was in spiritual direction a couple of weeks ago.
When I started my monthly Spiritual Direction session, via zoom (naturally) I had no idea what I wanted to talk about. I assumed we would discuss my writing, the associated pastoral care ministry that is evolving from it. Maybe we would talk about how I’m navigating this path God set me on- this one where I write about my complicated, not so sunshiny self in hopes of freeing others from their stress to be perfect. So, when we settled in, our microphones turned on and the still uncomfortable ritual of a zoom call starting, I didn’t really think about much more than why my hair looked so flat on the right side of my head, which kept catching my eye in my Brady Bunch box.
My Spiritual Director asked me how I would like to begin and I asked him to kick us off with a prayer. It seemed like a good way to get centered. As he began, saying something like “Dear God” or “Dear Father thank you for this time” I immediately heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “this hour is about your confession and I will be right here with you the whole time.”
Holy Spirit – 1
Jen – zippo
I looked straight into the camera and asked if we could spend the time on hearing my confession instead of direction and was met with warmth and encouragement. And so I began. Part of me wanted to start with, “When I was 7 and looking for a place to throw out my gum, I didn’t mean to set the dress store alarm off” but that seemed a little too far back to wander. And so, with a measured voice and trembling hands, I began.
For quite a bit of time, I worked through what I considered to be the darkest, most painful parts of my living soul and really kept it all together. (don’t worry, friends. That didn’t last) We dove into anxiety-driven failures and fearful decisions fueled by depression. I walked through these moments on my life’s timeline that represented my rock bottom and then I got to a point when I said,
“All of that changed when I gave my life to Christ.”
(insert waterworks here)
The shift was palpable to both of us.
I took a minute to weep, and clean up the ick running out of my nose and onto my shirt (was my hair still flat? who could even be bothered to look at this point). Quasi-composed, I explained how really, truly, deeply finding Jesus and loving him fully changed my life. He centered me. He helped me with my anxiety and moved me away from depression. Jesus provided me with grounding, with roots. And I knew I was loved deeply whether I took the gold in the Best Follower of Christ Olympic event or not. (it’s a solid not, but maybe I would make the podium? Top billion? It’s hard to say.)
And then the rub. The thing that I couldn’t put my finger on for ages became clear, as I said “He died for me. Jesus suffered for me. For me.” I wasn’t talking about the detail-less story of how Pilot gave the crowd what it wanted, Jesus lugged the cross up the hill, lots were cast for his clothing, Jesus made sure his Mother Mary would be cared for by John, and “it is finished.” I mean the version where he is flogged within inches of dying, where the movement of the cross by Jesus’ battered body was hell on earth. I was talking about the willingness to have nails, and not little ones we hang pictures with, driven through his body and the agony of dehydration and pain.
Jesus didn’t just die for me. He was tortured for me.
And for you, my friends.
And so after all of the sin conversation, and sin readings in the bible, and sharing lament in discussion groups, I finally confessed. Jesus gave me the key to unlock my own prison door of shame – the one I walked into and clanged the door shut on even when he tried to get me to stop. I felt free and so I wept.
And the Holy Spirit was right. It was there with me the whole time.