Pentecost and Commencement Exercises
Yesterday, within five minutes of turning in my school computer and my keys, and initialing the final grade sheet before handing it to the registrar, I received a text from a old friend, mentor, writing coach, and unpaid counselor: “Are you listening to your calling?” She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, now; and while she knows I’m winding up the school year and leaving my job, I doubt she knew the exact date and hour…and yet here it was…
“Are you listening to your calling….?”
I had two more official events: an end-of-the-year luncheon for teachers and the graduation ceremony last night. “Commencement Exercises” : Our Head of School reminded us that is what they are called. The very last ritual of my teaching job to be completed was an exercise in beginning. A commencement is a start, a beginning, an opening, a launch, an inception and an origin.
It isn’t lost on me that I accidentally slipped into blogging about the liturgical calendar this year and that Pentecost fell during the final week of teaching. The origin of the church was at the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry. The disciples and followers waited in Jerusalem for what Jesus had promised. Undoubtedly - as seen after the Spirit showed up - they didn’t understand nor could they contain what they got.
I find myself simultaneously ending, waiting and beginning. I’m ending my teaching job, though as long as I have breath I’ll be teaching somebody something because it’s who I am, not just what I do. I’m leaving to begin writing as a vocation, though I’ve written for years as hobby, part-time job, and therapy. I’m waiting to see exactly how that new life is going to pattern itself.
I suspect like Pentecost, it will look like chaos at times.
Writing is my awareness. It keeps me present. I wrote last year about writing being water to me. “It’s essential to me, a ritual as necessary to living as water to swimming. I’m thinking on paper. I often quote Flannery O’Connor, ‘I write because I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.’ I have to process things in language, either spoken or written…It’s a means of discovery, problem-solving, and remembering. It’s an act of worship.”
One of favorite songs these days is a recording of “Wade in the Water” by a group named Sweet Honey from the Rock. You can listen to it here. It’s a spiritual remembering the story of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea. The line that ends every verse, “Wade in the Water, God's gonna trouble the Water.”
Writing is my water.
Wade in the water.
Watch for the stirring of the water.
All I know is how to begin…pick up the pen, wade in, let the water move.
Pentecost brought the gift of the Spirit. Writing is my gift. Sometimes I want to return it and exchange for store credit. But mostly I am learning to practice gratitude for it, even when I don’t feel grateful or think that I am. That same friend-mentor-counselor who texted me yesterday told me a few years ago to start thanking God every day that he made me a writer. I do it even when I don’t really mean it. It’s a good ritual that is starting to shape me.
Like the gift at Pentecost, my gift sometimes flings open the door of understanding. My words, just a phrase or two every now and then, becomes the language someone can understand and it moves him or her just a bit. When that happens, all the waiting and the mystery seem worth it.
We do not worship what we understand. I marvel at the scene of my own life this week. I’m terrified of failure, of squandering the gift, of misusing the words; and yet the story of Pentecost grounds me - a bit player in that scene that day couldn’t possibly see the pattern and continuum available to us almost 2,000 years later.
So I begin. I allow my voice and my pen to be part of the pouring. I wade into the water.