It wasn’t that long ago that I came to college with my bags packed and my mind full of theology I didn’t understand. I’d grown up in old rhythms: liturgy on Sundays and Eucharist like manna, a provision from heaven I didn’t know how to need. I grew up so desperately hungry for understanding of God that I read more than I could stomach: Catholic books and Eastern Orthodox theology, books with complicated titles. I talked big about ideas with all the confidence of a teenager who learned the word “eschatological” three days ago and wants to use it, wants to fill the world over with what she thinks she knows about God.
I grew up Christian but thought I could grow up as the next C.S. Lewis, write the apology for my generation, tell the world why it was logical and reasonable and rational and right to be what I was. I grew up Christian, learned the habits of prayer and the way that the seasons change in the church – preparation to celebration to growing to Pentecost and again and again how I tried to understand too much about too much, cram heaven into my head while I still didn’t know how to French braid my hair.
That summer of going to college I thought I’d figured out what it meant to be Christian, to live out a life of faithfulness: it meant knowing the answers and complicating them, tracing the shapes of ideas into journals and class discussions and making my heart so safe in the right theology that it might never need to wonder about the presence of the love of God.
I drove up to the dorm and I unloaded my laundry basket of things – a few picture frames, books, notebooks and pens in neat piles, and waited.
I waited that whole year to feel right. I waited to hear God the way the people around me kept hearing Him, the way they closed their eyes in worship and put their hands above their heads to the songs by the bands I didn’t know existed (but I could sing a hymn, and I was proud of that, thinking I’d escape God into the warm and safe arms of the old ornate words and the incense and the icons). I waited for the moments where I would finally understand what falling in love with God felt like, finally make myself read my Bible and have quiet time in the mornings the way, it turned out, youth group taught you. And I hadn’t gone to youth group and I hadn’t played the Chris Tomlin CDs and maybe I hadn’t done much falling in love with God, I thought, as I walked to and from class trying to fit my theology around the worry that I might never catch fire.
But the fire of Pentecost can descend at a moment, like ice, like clear water, like dust that spins you and settles you and unsettles you again. Like Eucharist manna – the provision of mystery, in mystery.
I was in a parking lot, on a Sunday morning, tears tracing the indents my dimples make in my face whenever I move.
Then I was in a still Chapel late at night, the kind of stillness that bends towards a heavenly silence.
Then I was in a blue TV room in Washington DC learning that the very word Jesus was power.
Then, and again and again now – I take what is unto me the very Body and Blood, the mystery provision, and I fall in love with God who teaches my heart how to make room for Him, not the words about Him.
And the fire is small and flickers daily. And the Spirit descends. And I catch flame.
I’m linking up with Addie’s synchroblog to celebrate her book release of When We Were on Fire. I can’t wait to read it (because her words are good words, food-to-the-soul words).