Each weekday morning at our house progresses remarkably the same. My bleary-eyed sons stumble their way downstairs to cuddle with me for a bit before watching a show of their choice on pbskids.org. The viewing of a television episode insures that I can have approximately twenty-three minutes to myself to shower and get ready for the day. I frequently use this wonderfully quiet alone time to reflect on and mentally work through challenges I am facing: a writing project on which I am blocked, an intractable issue involving my sons for which there seems to be no creative solution, a break in a relationship that seems resistant to mending. Often, as my sons’ refrain of “Is it time for breakfast, mom?” rings in my ears all too soon, the thought upon which my rumination ends is, “I want someone to tell me it is going to be okay.”
It has been interesting to be able to put this refrain into words (perhaps this ability coincides with my children getting old enough to do a bit more for themselves, thus freeing me for more self-care and self-reflection than the first few years of their lives made possible). I think it is a bass note that has been there all along, and it is only now that I am able to hear it more clearly and to think about what it portends. The first part (“I want someone”) indicates a desire for relationship, for companionship, for feeling that I am not alone in the world as I face its prosaic and more extraordinary challenges. The second part (“to tell me it is going to be okay”) means that I do not want people to fix things for me, but rather to assure me that I have the strength to make it through.
In the realm of human relationships, I am beginning to see how this need for a supportive someone in my life says little about the friends and family I already have and everything about me. If I want someone to tell me it is going to be okay, I first have to be willing to tell someone that I am not okay. Sharing my vulnerability, owning up to the times when I feel over my head, and openly expressing my emotions is truly challenging to me. When I do not do these things, I deprive the important people in my life the opportunity to be there for me. If I cannot open up about my weakness, they won’t know to reflect back to me what they see as my power and ability.
This Sunday’s Gospel from John 14 also reminds me that it is not toward human beings alone that I can turn to for the sort of compassionate and encouraging relationship that seems to be a deep necessity in my life right now. Jesus tells his disciples that he will ask the Father and that the Father will send an Advocate to be with them always. And Jesus keeps his word, as we find out later in the Gospel of John. Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, breathes on them, and tells them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Put another way, Jesus insures that his disciples will have the help of the Spirit to assist them as they go into the world to do his work.
As members of the body of Christ, baptized into Jesus’ family, we can trust that the Spirit is with us always as a companion on our spiritual journeys. In fact, I do not need to “want someone to tell me it is going to be okay” when I realize that the Spirit of God is already with me, already empowering me with the gifts of the Spirit that are given us in baptism and that are renewed when we receive Eucharist. These gifts are:
- Wisdom: the desire to contemplate the things of God
- Understanding: the ability to comprehend divine truth, especially as revealed through Jesus Christ
- Counsel: the ability to judge how to act based on faith
- Fortitude: the courage to follow through on actions suggested by the gift of counsel
- Knowledge: the ability to see our lives as God sees them
- Piety: the desire to worship and serve God
- Fear of the Lord: the desire to act out of hope and out of wonder and awe of God (which is different than acting out of fear of punishment)
When I feel as if I am alone, I need to make my vulnerability known to others and I need to reconnect with the Spirit who is already accompanying and empowering me. I can trust that I am never working alone, and while a problem may feel too big for me, who am I to say what is too big for God?