Pentecost: Knit Together into a Divine Whole

This poem by Jan Richardson caught my attention over the weekend when I first saw it. And its Divine message to me landed this morning as I’ve been feeling lonely.

When We Breathe Together
A Blessing for Pentecost Day

This is the blessing
we cannot speak
by ourselves.

This is the blessing
we cannot summon
by our own devices,
cannot shape
to our purpose,
cannot bend
to our will.

This is the blessing
that comes
when we leave behind
our aloneness
when we gather
together
when we turn
toward one another.

This is the blessing
that blazes among us
when we speak
the words
strange to our ears

when we finally listen
into the chaos

when we breathe together
at last.

I’m so grateful to Jan Richardson for this perspective of Pentecost, this reminder of what I experience to be the deepest Truth of being human; I need togetherAlone, while an essential part of my journey and an indispensable source of blessing in its own right, is also death. Without you, without together, without we and us, without connected, I am apart from the Divine.

Not that you are God. …Or are you? There’s a discomfort in much of traditional Western evangelical Christianity with the idea that God might be in us. Or that God might be us in some robust way. That we might be God incarnate, because “we’re fallen, broken, sinful, and God is perfect” (which we understand to mean the absence of those). As time goes by in my life, I resonate less with the idea that we’re separated, that there’s a distance between divine and human. It feels more and more right to me that there’s instead a profound overlap between divine and human. I don’t see them as exactly the same––God is bigger, beyond human––but I experience them as stitched together. The Creator has chosen to create a world that shows us Divine identity. And perhaps not only reflects divinity, but is Divine.

Pentecost is a time for recognizing the collectivity of God, that God is fully God only through the interconnected Created order. That we––and the rest of Creation––are a significant, essential part of God. So to know and experience God, I must know and experience you and the rest of Creation. I must share my self and receive you. As the Spirit arrived in dramatic fashion at the Festival of the 50 Days, it wove humanity together across boundaries, across differences, across fault lines and feuds and rivalries and hatreds and histories. That’s the mark of a Creator who is complete in the connectedness of the Created. A God at work completing Creation by weaving it all together. An infinitely patient Divine being who continues to connect no matter how many times we try to disconnect, because it is literally the Divine body, the incarnation of spiritual reality, that is at stake in human life.

In this perspective, lonely is my longing to heal a wound in the Divine body. Lonely hurts because it is an unnatural tension. I am made to be in relationship. I am made to breathe with you. Spirit is the name we give that togetherness, that connectedness, that being stitched together.

I hate feeling lonely, feeling the sadness that comes from loving and being separated, whether by death, or miles, or relationship rift, or illness, or fear. It is the pain of loss I feel. Pentecost reminds me where that sadness ultimately comes from: it is the longing to be reconnected to the Divine I know in you. The more I love you, that is, the more I know the Divine in you, the more it hurts to be separated. And in general, the more I love, the more loss I feel as those connections are strained and broken by life as a human being.

Far too often, I feel shame when I’m sad. There’s a cultural voice in my head that labels sadness as something to be fixed, a sign of pathology, something to be afraid of. We cover up sadness, we deny it by putting on a smile and bucking up, we hide it for fear of being judged as broken, we avoid sharing it to avoid the pain of being told how to fix ourselves. The church has been a major culprit of this violence to emotional truth, telling people that holy equals happy and using scripture to prove it.

But my experience of the Divine is richest when I accept what I’m feeling and receive the embrace of love that follows––especially when that embrace has literal arms and accepting eyes. This Pentecost I hear the exact opposite of the broken cultural narrative I’ve absorbed that tells me needing others is needy, that reaching out for connection is dependence, that sharing my self is selfish. Pentecost is telling me that needing others is exactly how I was formed; reaching out for connection is fulfilling the Divine intention for Creation; sharing my self is my gift to another that offers them permission to share their self.

Thank you, Jan, for Divine wisdom on Pentecost:

This is the blessing
we cannot speak
by ourselves.

This is the blessing
we cannot summon
by our own devices,
cannot shape
to our purpose,
cannot bend
to our will.

This is the blessing
that comes
when we leave behind
our aloneness
when we gather
together
when we turn
toward one another.

This is the blessing
that blazes among us
when we speak
the words
strange to our ears

when we finally listen
into the chaos

when we breathe together
at last.

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