When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)
I was reflecting the other day on how frequently I suffer from sleep deprivation. My full-time job requires me to work four 10-hour overnights, and my family’s needs, the bright sunlight during the day, and my own stubbornness sadly keeps me from getting the deep, restful sleep my body needs. As a result, I experience periods of depression that often take a toll on my spiritual journey, putting me in a Christian “holding pattern” where I find myself longing for a bit of rebirth and renewal.
With Pentecost comes our yearly reminder that the cross and the resurrection have led to the birth of the Church, and our 2,000-year passage from infancy to Kingdom maturity. And yet, I wonder how many believers today are stuck in their own weary world of unrest, overtired and overworked at the job of Christian living, and longing for a rekindling of the faith that has carried them throughout their lives.
Indecision and Indifference
When my body is spent and my mind in need of the healing power of a good night’s sleep, my prayer life, my acts of love toward others, and my ministry of words all suffer. My utter exhaustion causes me to hover between indecision and indifference. I am too confused to know where to direct my energies and too tired to care. I want to pray but end up complaining about my sorry state. I long to love those around me, but spend my time in mindless activity. I desire to write but find my words wanting.
It is here that I stand at a crossroads, knowing the way I should take, but leaning toward the path of least resistance.
In this moment, my life becomes the perfect parable for the Body of Christ in the modern world. So many are spent from the insane pace of contemporary life, their hearts full of good intentions but their flesh not quite up to the task of carrying them out. They are confounded by fear, desirous to serve the Lord but lacking the strength they need. The narrow way seems too difficult to walk, and they are ready to be carried away by the current of secular society moving too quickly to make sense or even matter.
In Weakness, Strength
It is here, at this holy intersection between surrender and despair, where all eternity is compressed into a single moment of grace, that we wait like the first believers at Pentecost for God’s Spirit to hover over the chaos of our little cosmos and speak his healing Word to bring our dead souls to life once more.
In that place where we see that we have nowhere to turn but to Christ and his resurrection, our weakness is turned to strength. The emptiness of despondency is filled with the promise of hope renewed. We are infused with the power and presence of the One who directs our wills toward the greatest good. Words of love and daring deeds of faith flow from our lives into a world waiting for a healing touch. Once more, the Body is reborn.
I am amazed each time I see God pouring himself into my sinful heart, offering me his comfort and blessing, turning my depression into determination, causing words of healing to spill out onto the page once more, and spurring me on to the next stages of my journey toward heaven. Like the first Christians, I am given new life, renewed purpose, and an inexhaustible source of strength to continue the holy race toward the heavenly prize. It is passion expressed as poetry, the renewing power of God’s grace that manifests itself in ongoing acts of love and service for the Kingdom.
Pentecost Fire and Filling
I have often imagined that first Pentecost in that crowded upper room. The followers of Jesus, like men deprived of sleep and dreams, are at the point of utter exhaustion. They have prayed to the point of silence before the throne of grace. Their hearts beat with anticipation as they surrender to the will of the One who has told them to await his coming in a new and glorious way. They have nothing left to give but their very lives, no offering for the altar but their empty souls, ready to be filled with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit.
And then, the Spirit comes, pouring himself into their lives, consuming them with the fire of his love, overflowing with utterances that manifest themselves as words of praise spoken in every tongue of humankind. They are driven out of the darkness into the light of day to proclaim boldly the message of salvation to all with ears to hear. The vision of salvation, the dream of eternal life, breaks forth upon a world in need of the healing power of our future rest in Christ.
The Church is born, and the journey begun toward the day of the Great Wedding Feast when Jesus will come to claim his bride and call us home!
A Little Deprivation Might Be a Good Thing
When I experience those periods of depression brought on by a lack of sleep, I am usually able to reason that this is a temporary, artificial state of mind, one that will correct itself with the weekend and a return to a normal sleeping pattern. Still, it might be a good thing that I am brought to a place where my human weakness and my need for God are exposed before my eyes. Such knowledge leads me to deeper humility and a greater openness to the transforming power of the resurrection as the Holy Spirit redirects my journey in a more heavenly direction.
As Pentecost once more points us of the incredible fullness of God’s love for his people, may we come to recognize the insanity of worldliness that often deprives us of resting in the eternal vision that is ours in Christ. May our deep desire for rebirth drive us to despair and cause us to long with all our hearts for the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And may we one day all surrender as in sleep to the temporary trappings of this fleeting world and awaken to that glorious vision of heaven where all our dreams will find their fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.