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THE FRIGHTENING THRILL OF PENTECOST

Enuma Okoro

A few years ago I started a personal practice of taking time at the beginning of each new season of the church year to consider how my habits, thoughts and prayers, and ways of communicating with God and others can best guide me into the approaching season. First, I read and reread the appointed Scripture verses a few times over a couple of days. But as I do so, I vary the ways in which I reflect on the readings. Sometimes it is through prayer-journaling, which is simply when I use my journal as a place to write out my prayers to God. Very often, writing my prayers helps me think through my words more carefully. Other times I take long walks for several days in a row, letting the Scriptures settle into my life. Some texts nudge me to talk through my thoughts with a close friend. But regardless of how I enter a season, I have come to realize how much this practice of reflection affects my life, impacts my relationships, and shapes my perspectives throughout the year. Each season seems to elicit from me distinct ways of being in the world.

 

devozine Roller Coaster TS 78374921Pentecost is no different. Except that in Pentecost I feel the most out of my comfort zone. It is the season where it seems like everything in my spiritual life is up for grabs, though not in the joyful, miraculous, second-chance-at-life way of Easter as when the stone is rolled away from the empty tomb. Rather, in a more wild, willful, unruly way as the Spirit is set loose in the world. And, as I read and reflect on the texts of the Pentecost season, I often feel like the faithful thing for me to do is simply buckle my seatbelt, hold on tight, and try my best to enjoy the ride, which, when fueled by the Spirit, can be like a ride on a roller coaster: amazing and thrilling, but also terrifying and unsettling. Both kinds of rides have ended with my breathless promises to never do them again.

 

And yet because I believe that God is a God of order and not chaos I have come to appreciate a method to the Spirit’s madness. This playful, wild Holy Spirit is a God who unsettles us, teaches us, reminds us of the ways of God we so often forget, One who calls us to take holy risks and go out on limbs trusting God even when the limbs look too short from a distance. And this wild Spirit of unfamiliar invites us to practice certain disciplines during Pentecost, disciplines that will most likely be different for each of us because we serve a God who knows each one of us uniquely and intimately. The disciplines might be cultivating listening and discernment, learning new ways of praying, or even very tangible new ways of engaging in daily life—serving and seeing in ways that take us out of our comfort zone. I feel specifically called to pray differently.

 

Now, I am fairly direct and honest in my communication with God. That is to say, I talk back a lot. Remember the nagging woman and the judge parable in the Gospel of Luke (18:1–80)? Well, I am not the judge. I am very forthcoming with my thoughts, my desires, my confessions, and my emotions. I figure God can take it. But for me, Pentecost is one of the few times during the church year when I feel led to practice being less-specific with my prayers—a bit more quiet and attentive in our ongoing conversation—giving the Spirit room to search my heart and to intercede as the Spirit sees fit. This also opens me up to listen for and follow God’s guidance in ways that I may not have come up with on my own. It is a time when I try to keep my expectations of God wide-open in a “go ahead and do your thing God” sort of way.

 

devozine Flames TS 101067739Pentecost is a season where I imagine God inviting me to build my faith muscles, to believe in power and possibility that is beyond me, beyond my wildest dreams and my most fervent prayers. Pentecost is also the season in which I am strangely and uncharacteristically reminded that this whole “God breaking forth in the world” thing is not just about me. What God is doing in the world, in our little and big communities, is big and bold and life-altering. What God is doing draws all of us in and affects all of us. What God is doing through the power of the Holy Spirit invites us to consider how all of us communicate and live with God and by extension, with one another.

 

I hope each of us can figure out a fraction of how this wild Holy Spirit might want to lead, teach, and roughhouse with us this particular Pentecost season. And I hope we give the Spirit room to do exactly that.

 

What is God calling you to be or to do or to believe in that is beyond your wildest dreams and your most fervent prayers?


—from Weavings (Volume XXV, Number 30). Copyright © 2010 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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