Studying theology in graduate school afforded me the luxury of exploring my Catholic faith in ways I had never anticipated and will be forever grateful for. It opened a window to a world of excitement about who God is, seeking the movement of the Spirit in the mundane every day, and pondering what this Jesus looks like today and who he is inviting me to become.
One of the attributes of Jesus’ ministry that shocked me most was his simple modeling of right relationship by demonstrating a ‘third way.’ He does this in politically-charged situations, as well as real, daily encounters with men, women and children.
How is it that some of the most profound spiritual insights come from the simple and practical? Whether instructing radical forgiveness or affirming generous – even lavish – gestures of adoration, Jesus consistently surprises those in his company by acting outside of the norm. Jesus’ love is inventive— and calls forth the same creativity from his followers in our relationships and endeavors.
Fast forward five years and two babies later and my days seldom look like the luxurious afternoons spent quietly reading, Abbey bells softly tolling in the background.
Case in point: In mid-June I began waddling my nearly-baked bambino and two year old to the pool every Tuesday and Friday. This became somewhat of a post-nap time tradition—a way to spend some special time together just the two of us before the new baby arrived, and to achieve some relief from the heat of the Colorado afternoons in the bewitching hours before Daddy got home from work.
It happened on one of these sweltering days. We gathered the pool necessities: inflatable hippo, hot pink maternity swimsuit, and snacks. The heat was undeniable, as were the gathering clouds to the west. My neighbor called out from across the street: “You’re going to the pool, now?!” ‘Yep,’ I responded (clearly feeling confident about my own weather predictions and desperate for a break in the heat). As luck would have it, the summer pool staff felt the same about those storm clouds as my neighbor, and announced that the pool was closing just as we arrived.
You can already imagine what comes next—my sweet, somewhat groggy two year old, sporting her lime green Hello Kitty swimsuit, already lubed with sunscreen, gripping her beloved hippo, begins to meltdown.
Rain is pouring now and all the way home I offer suggestions to distract her from this disappointment. “We’ll fill up the tub,” I suggest, “…and pretend like we’re at the pool!”
She is not buying it. And frankly, neither am I. We unbuckle and head into the house as the torrential downpour beats upon the roof. In an inspired moment, I steer her back through the garage and into the pouring rain. She looked up at me, confirming mom’s condolence of such strange behavior, though she needed no encouragement once she got the go-ahead.
The next fifteen minutes were exhilarating as we ran ankle-deep through the puddles bubbling by our house. Chubby toddler legs carrying the excitement of the two extremes: hot & cold. It made for an eerie effect as we watched the steam rise from the hot asphalt as the rain poured down. Over my saturated t-shirt stuck to my growing belly, I marveled at the paradox before me: parched earth, welcoming rain, deep-seeded need meeting providential nourishment. So it was for her—and me as well.
One unscripted decision changed catastrophe into wild celebration for the two of us (and the neighbors watching the commotion out of their windows!) that day. And I suspect that this is a taste of what God intends for us—to heed this invitation to turn from despair to rejoicing that is perpetually awaiting our recognition and creativity.
I suspect that this is a taste of what God intends for us—to heed His invitation.
St. Irenaeus said it well in his sentiment that “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” I do not always recognize these opportunities, but it is experiences like this one that keep me searching for, imagining and affirming the next Spirit-infused invitation.