On the recommendation of my spiritual director I have begun to read Stephen Seamand’s book, “Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service” (InterVarsity Press, 2005). I read it in bits of time, in part because I have a huge load of reading for my doctoral lit review, and in part because it is weighty and I need time to digest what I read.
This morning I had time to sit in the sun on my deck and read Seamand’s introductory section on the Holy Spirit. He quotes Richard Neuhaus, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God” (2000). Seamand’s follows by stating, “Those who are filled with the Spirit have died to that determination, surrendered their right to be in control, and made themselves radically dependent on and available to the Holy Spirit. They have deliberately abandoned themselves to the Holy Spirit (28).”
I read that and paused – just sat and thought about the past month. Heavy work schedule, a lot going on in my kids’ lives (at home) including finishing up the school year, and in the midst of it a two week trip to Pasadena with my two teenage daughters for my first year intensives in the doctoral program. At the end of my first week back home I was exhausted.
Sitting on my deck in the early morning sunshine, reading those words, I had to ask myself – what was it that I truly wanted? To control my life, to be independent, and as a consequence be unavailable for the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in and through me? Sometimes – maybe lots of times – the answer to that question is ‘yes.’ I want to be in charge, get it right, control the situation, and have everyone like me and approve of me.
This morning, though, I felt as though God might be challenging me. I felt God was asking me, “are you sure that is what you want?” And I thought about my dreams, to write and teach and speak. I thought about my time in Pasadena with global leaders from all over the world who were amazing and who are living adventurous lives. Do I dare to risk telling God I want to jump off the cliff and abandon myself to the Holy Spirit?
Of course, once God gets that gleam in His eye and asks me the question, I know I have to respond. What do I really want? I want to live the adventure, the wild life with God. And so, with Seamand’s words as a guide, I said to God, “I surrender my right to control, and I make myself radically dependent on and available to You. I deliberately abandon myself to You, Holy Spirit. Let’s get wild, let’s go on the adventure together.”
When I said that, not much changed. The sun kept rising, the air got warmer, I eventually went inside to have breakfast and head to church. But inside, where God and I hang out, I think something changed. I think the door opened to the wild.
This morning it was my turn to serve in the nursery at my church. I do this every month, not because I am awesome or because I particularly like babies. Honestly, I do it because I feel I need to help out somewhere and after raising seven kids I can do this in my sleep. And, they don’t make me change diapers.
I was working with a young girl who was in there with her baby brother. She told me that she was with him because when he cries he holds his breath. Together we were in charge of five little ones, all who were mobile and old enough to eat cheerios. They cried, pooped, snotted and drooled; it was a normal day for that crowd. Eventually the sister needed to use the ladies room; I told her to go fast while I kept an eye on the kidlets who seemed content as long as they were sitting on me. No sooner did she run out the door than her little brother began to cry.
I realized when he wasn’t making any sounds that he was holding his breath. In a few more seconds I realized that he was not able to breath. I knew that the cardinal rule of nursery duty is that you never leave the kids alone, but I knew that rule number two was that when a kiddo stops breathing you need to get some help. I picked the little boy up and told all the other little ones that I would be right back. Of course, they couldn’t understand what I meant, and so they started crying. Being abandoned in the nursery is not what they had on their agenda.
While I ran with the baby to find help, I had one of those timeless moments. My body was running, my voice was telling someone I needed help, and somewhere in my mind I was fascinated with watching this little one turn purple and pass out. Not in a sick way, but in a triage way. I thought, “Blow on his face to try to snap him out of it, listen for breath sounds, think about CPR, see if his breathing will kick in when he finally goes fully unconscious.” I was also thinking, “Jesus, heal him, keep him alive, why is my heart pounding?” And I was also thinking, “Lay your hand on his heart, lay your hand on his head, keep listening to him breath, why are his eyes rolling around, Jesus be with him, he’s pinking up again, he is breathing, Jesus be with him, why am I so sweaty?”
Of course, within in a couple of minutes his mom and others were in the room; the little guy was waking up again, and we were talking about what happened. Someone asked me if I was OK, and gave me a hug, and of course, I was OK.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone after that. I cleaned up and left out the side door. I was in a state of semi-shock. Probably some of my PTSD kicked in, as well as an adrenaline rebound, and probably some residual travel exhaustion. It wasn’t until two hours later that I remembered my chat with God this morning about abandoning myself to the Holy Spirit. About being adventurous. About living the wild life with God.
I thought about being in the nursery on a day I am not normally scheduled, about being a person who is calm in a crisis, about having had so many kids that I don’t outwardly panic when crazy stuff happens. I wondered about God trusting me with this little boy, trusting I would know what to do, know what to look for. I wondered if this was part of the wild life, the adventure. I somehow had envisioned the wild life with God was going to be about traveling to exotic places and maybe moving to the beach to become a writer. I certainly didn’t think that abandoning myself to the Holy Spirit might be tested two hours later in the church nursery.
Now I am home, groceries put away, cool fans blowing on a hot day. I am contemplating taking a nap before picking up my book on urban poverty and development and diving into studying. What washes over me is the feeling that God trusted me today with a sweet little life. That God loves me in all the places where I live in my broken humanness and my stumbling around as I seek to be His to the depths of my being. I am thankful for God’s trust and for His love for me. I am determined to stay abandoned to God as best I can, to trust God in the wild adventure of life in the Holy Spirit.