My friend Janet whispers the Holy Spirit to me, sometimes she texts it, sometimes gets kind of pushy with her comments. She nudges me out of complacency. She speaks, though, from an honest place with grace, no judgment, allowing room for my soul to catch up, my ears to hear. I have trusted this relationship, trusted that God was leading me, us, to a new place. That journey began with coffee in her living room, gained incredible momentum as we led several members of our church in studying “Beginnings” by Steve Wiens, and has kept us searching as we discover what it means to be authentically creating with the gifts God has shared with us. This pilgrimage, begun over a year ago, took Chef and I to St. Paul Minnesota for a two day trip to listen to Seth Haines, author of “Coming Clean” and Steve in an event called Sobriety and the Spirit. I wanted to go to hear what Seth would have to offer to Chef and I, believers and parents of an addict. I wanted to meet Steve in person after a digital friendship has taken root. I wanted to experience worship at Genesis Covenant Church where podcasts each week leave me hungry for more. Those were my plans, God plans were much bigger.
To say that Seth spoke with honesty is like saying the sky is blue, chocolate is delicious, puppies are cute. True statements but without seeing the shades of color reflected in a stormy sky, without smelling the richness of a fine German piece of candy, without ruffling the ears of a 10 week old Golden Retriever, some of the depth is lost. Seth was brutally honest with his story. It hurt to listen to, it hurt to know it isn’t unique. He didn’t stop, though, in just telling. He asked us to find our pain and to find the thing we do to keep that pain at bay, which separates us from God. (Buy his book, it is good.) So in the quiet moments he gave us, I listened for my own whispers but my head was still talking, my ears not tuned in to the Spirit.
Matt Moberg came up to the stage with his guitar and tore away whatever mask I had left. His voice is still echoing around my heart. I was entranced, I was spellbound. God held me in His hands while Matt preached His words through song. Find him on ITunes. Whispers, flutters in my soul. The music ended and we were back to discussions, back to my head space time. I needn’t have worried, God was preparing me.
The next day we entered the community center where this church plant is held, immediately embraced, welcomed, remembered as those people who came from afar. Friends from the day before greeted us, we played with children, drank coffee. Then music began, music that is truly straight from the angels, music that is so pleasing to God, my heart broke open. I watched as this young woman sang, her voice piercing my soul, her faith laid out, shared, broken for all to take. The young man next to her lifted his voice, perfect harmony, perfect call to worship. In that darkened auditorium, I heard their call, my walls fell away, I met them in community, in communion, to seek Our God, to worship Him.
Seth spoke again, delivered the sermon, I wondered what we would gain from a second listen. The ways in which I don’t see God at work amaze me. I just didn’t see it coming. When Seth again asked the community to close their eyes and identify the pain, before my eyes shut, my word came to me in a shout. It was bold, it was direct, it was not to be ignored. My ears could hear the whispers of the Spirit and the Spirit, as excited as me, finally making that connection, shouted! It wasn’t the word I had imagined the day before, I am still wrestling with this word. But wow does it make sense. My ears have heard.
Maybe one day I will be so practiced at listening that the Spirit can whisper, maybe one day I will be without walls around my heart. On this day, on this journey, I am one step closer to my own up close, fully trusting relationship with my God. It takes a village, it takes a community to raise a believer. It takes music written and sung by the pianist that feels like it is your own song. It takes authentic believers, without masks, admitting we are just all in this together, loving the One who created us. It takes testimony of our sins met with “I know sister, me too” instead of judgement. It is grace. It is light. We found this village in St. Paul, one step further on our journey. Praise be to God.