A friend’s cancer is back, and I’d like to punch a wall. I’d like to throw pillows and lamps. I’d like to break something just to release some of this rage, to somehow make manifest the internal brokenness. See?! I want to shout as I shatter glass. See what my insides look like? I cannot think beyond today because fear grips my heart at all that could be lost for her, all that could be missed, and now I am not only grieving this news for this moment but also for the massive, ever-expanding universe beyond this moment: the thick fog of what ifs. I could collapse under the weight of it.
My friend is far enough away that I can’t stop by. I can’t offer my shoulder, my arms, my full embrace. I can’t even cook a casserole dish.
And yet, it is from this distance that I am most aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The Comforter Jesus promised the Father would send to be with us forever seems to operate like a seismometer, picking up panic waves and distress signals from deep within the hurting and sending the scribble of seismic activity across the miles, to me, its weak receptor.
I try to pay attention to seismographs from the Spirit. What else am I supposed to do from this far away but pray, pray without ceasing, text or call whenever the Spirit nudges, that quiet voice. You probably know that itch you just have to scratch, when you just can’t get someone off your mind.
I think the Holy Spirit is intended to be so intertwined with our spirits that the two communicate like a double helix thread of DNA. Sometimes our side is deaf, shut out and frozen in the daily grind and ritual. Maybe disease and suffering defibrillate our own spirits so we can really hear the world and its needs and then hear how the Spirit calls us to respond, disrupts our spirits’ self-centered navel-gazing and redirects our vision outward.
I think the Holy Spirit is intended to be so intertwined with our spirits that the two communicate like a double helix thread of DNA.
But sometimes our spirits can’t handle the weight of those needs. Maybe that’s when the Spirit prays on our behalf, prays without ceasing, when all we have is the rhythmic, primal heartbeat of OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod.
Somehow, it matters, these prayers, whether we speak them silently or utter them over the phone or send via text or write in a journal or whisper them into someone’s shoulder, eyes shut or open, on our knees or prostrate or hands raised—no matter the posture, it matters.
Somehow, these prayers release the fist of anxiety bound in the brain in that moment of panic. Somehow, these prayers work their gentle fingers along the sufferer’s furrowed brow and soothe away the tension. Somehow, these prayers bring a peace that passes understanding, and we know that all shall be well. Somehow.
And peace descends like dawn evaporates the fog, like air clears after the rain, and all is calm. Somehow, these prayers release the pent-up tears, and the pent-up tears release the grief, and the grief makes room for perseverance, and perseverance exercises character, and character raises hope above disease and declares, yes, all shall be well. Whatever the end, the Spirit and the spirit spin as one, and it is well, it is well, it is well with my soul.
The church often delivers these verses as a final blessing and prayer at the end of a service, and it occurs to me now as perhaps the prayer the Spirit is constantly uttering on our behalf. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
I learned that “amen” means “so be it, truly” and so, bless you, amen, keep you, amen, may the Lord’s light shine upon you, amen, pour grace upon you, amen, turn his face toward you, amen, and peace, and peace, and peace. So be it, truly. Amen.