When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
One of the greatest compliments we can either give or receive is to speak in terms of inspiration. Think of how you feel when someone says “What you have done is truly inspiring,” or “You are an inspiration to me.” When we’re inspired, our actions and words have an extraordinary quality to them, bringing out the best in people and making possible what once seemed impossible.
Similarly, when we use the language of giftedness, as in “You are a gifted musician” (or tennis player, parent, doctor, or listener), we’re acknowledging an attribute or level of human accomplishment that isn’t available to everyone, but given to some with particular bounty.
This language of giftedness and inspiration underscores the unique creativity and potential in each person, for we are gifted and inspired in different ways. It also acknowledges the existence of a greater source of creativity that lies beyond us, but in particular ways works through us.
Christians speak of this greater source as the Holy Spirit, the part of God that is as close as our own breath. When we’re inspired, it’s not that the Holy Spirit takes over and makes us something we’re not. Rather, something innate in us is amplified by the Spirit, so that we are still ourselves, only more.
This Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, and in church we’ll hear of the Holy Spirit coming to Jesus’s disciples as a strong wind that created a collective sense of energy and anticipation. The disciples were given the ability to speak in languages so that those gathered from all parts of the ancient world could understand.
The disciples then spoke from their hearts about Jesus and the events since Jesus’s crucifixion that assured them his death was not the end, that God had revealed to them that love is stronger than hate and life is stronger than death. The Spirit’s power took their words and amplified them, enabling them to transcend boundaries that divide with a unifying message of love.
If you want to find evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, you needn’t look further than your own spirit and innate giftedness. For the Holy Spirit is deeply respectful of our human spirit, moving with such grace and anonymity that if we wanted to, we could take all the credit for what the Spirit is making possible through us. The Spirit doesn’t demand our acknowledgement, but is content to let the light shine on us.
The Spirit’s presence heightens our awareness and its energy carries us forward, even when we ourselves are tired. It’s like the feeling of when we’re swimming in the ocean and a wave carries us to shore. Every stroke we take carries us farther and faster than our strength. It’s one of the most affirming spiritual experiences to feel the Holy Spirit is working through us.
We can’t control or invoke the Holy Spirit on command. What we can do is open ourselves to the experience. We can pray for inspiration, but then we must wait for whatever insight or direction that comes.
There may be long stretches when nothing happens, or we might get bits of clarity, but not the whole picture; or what we hear is a message to keep waiting, as Jesus told his disciples before the day of Pentecost came.
There are things we can do, however, as we wait for the Spirit’s power. The first is to invest in our natural giftedness, to hone our skills and get better at our craft. For if the Holy Spirit works in and through us, it matters, as a friend of mine used to say, that we give Her as much as we can to work with.
Another way to put ourselves in the Spirit’s path is by showing up where help is needed. The writer Anne Lamott said it this way, “We see the Spirit made visible when people are kind to one another, especially when it’s a really busy person like you, taking care of a needy, annoying, neurotic person, like you.”1
When we’re willing to allow others their imperfections and accept our own, the Holy Spirit may show up and help us to lean into our gifts. When we do, we stand a really good chance of experiencing first-hand what makes the life of faith worth living–not merely putting our own gifts to good use, but as we do, having a sense of connection to the power and presence of God, That doesn’t mean we won’t get tired, but even fatigue lands differently when we ride the Spirit’s wave.
The good news of Pentecost is this: the Holy Spirit is alive and well. Take time this weekend, no matter where you are, to remember the times you have felt truly inspired and seen inspiration at work in others. Pray for the gift of the Spirit to empower you again, as you invest in your own giftedness and show up where love is needed. Then pay attention, for amazing things may happen, in and through you.
1Anne Lamott, “Let Us Commence,” in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. (Riverhead Books: New York, 2005, p. 306