Penultimate SSW, Spring 2024

April 11, 2024

So, another notebook draws to a close. Next week, not today, but I want to prepare a bit, ramp up, ease into the transition. I do this preparation thing more and more these days. Is this what aging is all about? Just what am I transitioning toFrom? Is there any control over any of this?

I keep turning to the Holy Spirit. I wish I could put in words my relationship to the Holy Spirit. I was asked by a dear friend, “Which person of God do you relate to most?” It was a question that took me by surprise; I had never thought of that. In the intervening time, years now, I’ve thought about it often. I get such comfort from my answer. And maybe a little defiance, too. . . . I always seem to need some of that. For in framing the question, my friend added the options of “God the Father” or “God the Son”—Numbers 1 and 2. But Number 3 was not mentioned, and so, perhaps out of perverseness, I went with 3: God the Holy Spirit. It “felt” right instantly, and it still does.

So much of my internal life has been an aching towards peace. The silence of it. The comfort of it. The security of it. The calm after the storm; the all-at-onceness of complete meaning. Part of my attraction, no doubt, stems from my discomfort with conflict, and maybe, perhaps, the terror of the violence of early years, as experienced or perceived in childhood. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t merely need to be justified or appreciated as a remedy for disorder. It stands on its own as a thing, a God. In its paradoxes, it is everything, all at once, everywhere, in perfect harmony, all motion, commotion, and stasis—and total silence. I’ve always been attracted to the wordlessness, the forgiveness, the acceptance, the knowledge—yes, the peace—of this God, who pervades, who entitles the complete story, who changes everything . . . without motion or effort. I need “finishedness”—yes, but not only that; I also need its perfection, its goodness. There’s hope, ultimate hope, that everything pulls together, both containing the motions and transcending them, having your cake and eating it too.

As I close up shop this semester, as I step back, I want everything to mean something; I want health of mind, as I fear I’ve been on the edge of some catastrophe. In taking stock I see many reasons to be optimistic. I have some responsive students—two of whom are here with me, pre-class, doing SSW (though one of them is chatting away, making both me and the other student anxious). These students are special; they’re going through something—that intense thing that calls into question some basic issues of survival—survival as a student; survival as a young person in a challenging world; survival as a person planning a purposeful life. I hope they make it; there is so little control—by me or them or institutions—of processes and goals. But with the Holy Spirit, all things are possible. What I appreciate in them and so many of their colleagues is their natural affinity for the Holy Spirit, as evidenced in their acceptance of an uncertain process, but one that is okay, no drama, one that they roll with.

I have many students who inspire me to care. I have family members who continue to rivet my attention in a caring way. I have opportunities to be of service to students and family and others in the world. All that points in good directions.

But I also have unease.

I remain addicted to the drama of the political world. I keep hoping for the day when we “get beyond” the chaos. But I have long suspected this motive. There is no “getting beyond”; there’s always the next crises, and the media simply provide the circus its spotlight and movement among the rings.

Maybe there’s a “sweet spot”—just enough process and enough product to achieve homeostasis? 

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, 
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

So chaotic, so peaceful.

As I wrap up, I find a need to pray for friends, who have new needs that have arisen since the start of this notebook. For one dear friend, my oldest, there is the ongoing battle with grief; some prayers have been answered, but so much more is needed; I need to reach out. For another, there is need for prayers for a loved one, struggling with a new diagnosis. These issues loom large, and they dominate the “time.” The Holy Spirit must lift us beyond such times, but the times must be passed through too. It’s hard to think of the sweet spot, when there’s such bitterness. The problem with the Holy Spirit is that it is never focused on the “times”; it’s always focused on the “beyond”—on itself, essentially. That’s a good focus, but it doesn’t ease our current pains.

Where am I now, as Burke might say? Seriously, where am I? What year is it? It’s certainly no longer April 11, 2024, 8:19 AM. Have I been healed from my unease—about politics, about family and friends, about my prospects, about the environment, about those defenseless children?

I hope, in the intervening time between this April 11, 2024 moment and this reading of the moment, I’ve been able to achieve some “progress,” some local remedies, some Holy Spirit peace. There’s a time for all that, and a goodness in the satisfactions of a “job well done”—that little piece of Holy Spirit finishedness that comes down on us in random snippets throughout our days. Let us collect such moments. Let us reside in smiles and small satisfactions, as we hold at bay the crisis ever looming. Summer vacation beckons. But I do have that one more week of notebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *