May the Force Be With You: The Holy Spirit at work
A year ago I spent some time in India. One evening my hostess invited me to watch The Bucket List with her. Try to picture us: two women, one Hindu and one Catholic, unknown to each other until a month earlier, watching a movie about two men with terminal cancer who spend their last six months doing things they always wanted to do before they “kick the bucket.” Poonam and I sat late into the night discussing our own “bucket lists” and found we had much in common.
What do I want to do before I die? For that matter, what do I want to do before summer ends? Too often it flies by, and come September I mourn that I only went swimming twice with my grandchildren and I missed the cherry harvest and I didn’t even begin a certain writing project.
Why do we not do what we want to do? This phenomenon isn’t limited to distasteful projects; I even put off the tasks I enjoy. It’s not so much the work that’s daunting; it’s the starting. I don’t have a scientific mind, but when I was introduced to Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, I had an “aha” moment. The first part says that a body at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed. Aha! That’s why it’s so hard to get going or to change. We’re like Newton’s inanimate objects, tending to continue as we are—purposeful and productive or on the couch watching reruns of This Old House.
This morning in our coffee shop I met a good friend who just lost his job, one of the millions of the suddenly unemployed. After years of the work routine, he’s verging on despair. Financial worries, yes, but also difficult is the disorientation of being forced to a sudden stop.
And yet…crises that bring us up short are also moments of opportunity, moments when we can examine who we are, what we want from life or—better—what God wants of us.
The cure for boredom and mindless distraction by day and wide-eyed, heart-thumping panic by night is engagement—the flow and competence of meaningful work. But sometimes a malaise settles over a person suddenly out of work, and it’s hard to get going again. As Newton explained in the second part of his First Law of Motion, the events in the first part only change when they’re acted upon by an “unbalanced force.”
What’s an unbalanced force? Any force strong enough to get us moving in a new direction…or moving at all. Job loss, being diagnosed with cancer, and retirement are unbalanced forces that compel us to move in a new direction, but sometimes a New Year’s resolution or a “bucket list” will do the trick.
The ultimate unbalanced Force, the Force that can knock us off our pins and set us right again, is the Holy Spirit. God didn’t create us to be slaves to safe routines and mindless amusements until this precious life is over. He made us for freedom and instilled in us a longing for meaning, a sense that our lives matter very much. We’re here to reveal—indeed to be—a face of God otherwise never known to this world. God sends the Holy Spirit to work in us, to help each of us become our true self before this life ends and we go home to heaven.
Meanwhile, the summer stretches before us. What’s on your list of things to do before summer kicks the bucket?