While on sabbatical, I’ve had more time than usual for reflection.
This week, I’ve been thinking about spirit, and about rain.
We Presbyterians are not always comfortable in the realm of the spirit. We prefer words. We often live more in our heads than in our hearts. That is certainly true of me.
But Presbyterians, like everyone else, sometimes experience a spiritual thirst. People search in all sorts of places for things to quench that thirst, to fill up the empty spaces in our souls. “My soul thirsts for God,” the Psalmist says.
Similarly, as summer wears on, the earth and its plants thirst for rain in all this heat. I once heard a farmer say that even if he uses a hose to give his garden an inch of water, it doesn’t seem to do as much good as 1/10 of an inch of rain. I’m not sure why that’s true, but it certainly seems to be so.
Just as nothing substitutes for rain, nothing truly quenches our spiritual thirst but the Spirit. As hours are filled with everything from school to work to shopping to just watching TV, we seem to crowd out spiritual void by filling up with other things. That’s easier than sitting still and listening for the quiet voice of God.
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God,” wrote Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, 17th century.
There comes a time when everyone finds a dry spot. When the ground of your faith just will not yield any fruit at all, when it seems there is no water to be found, and so we go looking for anything that will fill that thirst.
Part of sabbath rest (not sabbatical, per se, but just plain rest) means making space and time for Spirit. The Spirit is what we experience as conscience, or as presence, or as nudging, or as the voice of God.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. From Romans 8
When words aren’t enough or when there are no words, when our own spirits are parched, that is just the time when God’s Spirit comes to us.
The Spirit prays for us with sighs too deep for words when we are unable to voice our own emptiness.
God cares about what we thirst for—for things to be right with the world, for things to go well for those we love, for things to go well with us. Even when we’re unable to form our own words around those needs, the Spirit intervenes for us to be filled with the life-giving waters of God’s love and presence.
May the Spirit work in you to quench your thirst, to fill you with all the things you need, to bring rain to the parched ground of your soul.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2011