I once went on a blind date. He was a law student, a friend of a friend, and I was a seminarian. We met for drinks.
He was nice, funny. He was a self-identifying Christian--the first one, actually, I had ever gone out with. We were talking about our chosen professions; he was, as many are, fascinated by the idea of a call to ministry. My call story is not exactly dramatic, but it has a social justice edge, forged on youth group mission trips and in researching poverty. “I want to make the world a better place,” I told the date.
The future lawyer looked at me and asked, “But isn’t the world a fallen place?”
After Jesus returned to the Father, the disciples withdrew to the upper room. They may have been waiting for the Spirit, but they did not wait in silence. According to the Acts of the Apostles, they prayed up a storm.
What happens to a person when the Holy Spirit descends like a tongue of fire? In Acts, those present were filled with the Holy Spirit. We all long for this. We all seek fulfillment. I saw this once when I was conducting a spiritual retreat for members of various 12-step groups. Each person spoke powerfully about how the pain of emptiness in his life had led him down wayward paths. Each had discovered that “you can never get enough of that which will not satisfy.”
Our culture’s ever-increasing individualism is about to take a decisive turn. Any day now self-checkout lanes in our stores will outnumber the lanes that lead shoppers to a human cashier. At that point, “going to the market” will become a solitary enterprise.
When I was attending a university in Germany, I lived alone and did research in the university library. Occasionally, I was aware of that peculiar kind of loneliness called homesickness. On those days, I found solace listening to a street performer named Terry. Terry was homeless, and he spent his afternoons on an old stone bridge near the university.
On the first day of my vacation, I went fly fishing on the Yellowstone River in Montana and caught nothing but a couple of branches. That might have been because I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I didn’t know whether to use flies that float (dry flies) or flies that sink (wet flies). I didn’t now how I should work them in the water. Should I just let them drift with the current, or use a fast or slow retrieve? I didn’t know which areas of the river would be most productive in terms of holding actively feeding fish. Did I mention that it had been 20 years since the last time I was fly fishing? The next day, that all changed when a good friend took me fishing.