I apologize for being so absent from the blog-world recently. School was wrapping up with its array of end-of-year festivities, and now it’s summer, which means a good chunk of my time is spent with my children and not in front of the computer. Also, we’re in the process of moving houses, so at the moment I’m surrounded by boxes and piles of who-knows-what. I tell you this because it’s actually the perfect example of what has become a theme of what I am learning this year, which is that each of us has energy to use in this life, and at any given moment we must give energy to those things before us which are most important. If you do this right, I think it feels less like the squeaky wheel getting the grease and more like a properly centered life practice. I’m learning that energy is a gift. Being a gift, it ought not be squandered, or tossed around foolishly. And it cannot be demanded.
First, on not squandering: I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to squander my energy on secondary pursuits. I think when I am 80 and sitting in a nursing home visited by younger generations, this will be one of the primary bits of wisdom I’d like to pass on. Each of us has primary pursuits, those areas in our life that mean the most to our vitality and happiness. Usually, these things take the bulk of our energy because of their importance. For me at this stage in my life, it’s my children, my husband, my family and close friends, my church, and our school community. Then there are a few major areas of the universe I feel some form of responsibility for; big picture questions or issues that I feel are part of my calling in life to address. These may change over time, but at the moment I think most often about the future and vitality of the Church, the importance of the local church community, and the task of education. So what I mean by not squandering your energy is saying yes to a whole lot of things that don’t make the list. My problem is that I can go to coffee or lunch with almost anybody and get excited about what’s on their list. If I had a dollar for every time I then mistook their list for my list… I think I’m finally learning that I’m not automatically responsible for lending my energy to a cause just because it’s a good one.
What does that have to do with Pentecost? Because at Pentecost the Spirit changed the course of the whole divine energy operation. The Spirit of God used to be a zero-sum game. A very selected few had it, while most didn’t. The Spirit was in highly limited and highly desirable supply. That may mean lucrative economics for capitalists, but it made for very anxious humans. To live with this kind of worldview means we are constantly concerned that there isn’t enough Spirit energy to go around. When you think the Spirit is a zero sum game, and you have energy, you can start to think you have to say yes to everyone who asks you to share it. Because who else can help? At Pentecost, though, God very dramatically displayed a different kind of system, one in which the Spirit flows freely and fully. God showed the Spirit to be a widely and freely distributed power. So it’s not just up to you to lend your energy to a good cause. It’s up to everybody. And probably, it’s best to let the person with the most passion toward that cause lend their own energy to it, and you to yours.
Second, a word about energy as a gift and not something to be demanded: As with many life lessons, this one I continue to learn through my yoga practice. My long-suffering yoga instructor is used to coming around to me during class and telling me to relax, not to push myself so hard, to soften my shoulders, to breathe. Even after all these years, I go into that studio thinking I’m supposed to push my energy around like chess pieces until I come out with a winning check mate move. I tend to be very bossy with my energy. But you can’t demand energy to come to you. The Spirit moves where it will, and some days you just won’t have the energy to finish up your ideal set of productivity goals or achieve your hoped outcome of inspired moments. This year, maybe more than any other, I’ve been working on receiving energy as a gift and then gently sending it along where it is most needed. You know, asking nicely. You know, saying thank you and welcome and why don’t we work together in this direction. Because even though the Spirit after Pentecost is not in short supply, she is still a blessing and a gift. A beautiful, unpredictable, wonderful gift. She is still God’s breath of life upon us and within us, and as such we should say a whole lot of thank yous and welcomes and I’ll follow you as we work together in God’s direction.
The energy of life that God has given us is a gift. It is not to be squandered, nor is it to be demanded. It is to be honored, appreciated, and channeled toward those primary pursuits God has set before us. Can you imagine what could happen if we all focused on living this out in our daily lives?! I think the outcome would look something like the Kingdom of God.