The Holy Spirit As Lawnmower
As I was sitting on the back patio this morning drinking my coffee, and trying to wake up enough to start thinking coherently, I witnessed something odd.
A landscape worker on an enormous riding lawnmower came speeding by cutting the grass by circling around and around before speeding off to his next target. The mower was followed by a huge flock of ibis, scurrying across the grass, feeding as they went.
Ibis are small, white, crane-like birds---the kind you most typically see in photos perched on top of water buffalo, hippos, and the like. There's a type of ibis that is found in Florida, and it's not uncommon to see them flocked together and feeding.
It struck me as interesting that they were following the lawnmower, but then it dawned on me... the reason why they were following it is that the mower was stirring up the insects and other critters in the grass, bringing them to the surface.
The mower created a disturbance, but it was in the disturbance that the birds found sustenance and life, if they were brave enough to follow it.
I started thinking about all of this in relation to my own understanding of God, which is what you do at Oh-Dark-Thirty in the morning before you have had a great deal of coffee. It occurred to me that the image of the lawnmower and the ibis was rife with potential metaphor, but I found myself heading in this direction: The Holy Spirit as Lawnmower.
Hang with me on this...
There was a kind of chaos and unpredictability with the lawnmower as it dashed across the grass, zig-zagging, and generally disturbing everything. But in the wake of that disturbance, the birds were able to discover food that would have been nigh to impossible to uncover without it.
Jesus once described the movement of the Holy Spirit this way: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going..."
Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. Disturbing. Chaotic. These are all the kinds of words that you could easily use to describe the way the Spirit of God moves and grooves in the world around us. The Spirit is the always-kinetic energy that exists between us and every part of Creation.
It is the very presence of Christ in the world--creating, sustaining, redeeming, restoring, rejuvenating...
And this life-giving energy flows in ways that often disturb us and our circumstances. The Spirit comes crashing in right when you least expect it and more often than not turns your world upside down.
You might be led to doubt in the aftermath. You might be filled with dismay. You will most certainly be made uncomfortable and you will probably need to move.
You will also discover something amazing, though: There is life in the moving. There is life in chasing after the disturbances of the Spirit. There is life, sustenance, fulfillment, and purpose.
This is what God does. God shakes up our little lives with the Good News that God is still in the business of saving the world, still driven to raise what was left for dead, still passionate about each one of us.
Fr. Thomas Keating once wrote: There is no possibility of God holding back.
I love that line, especially in light of what we're thinking about in terms of the movement of the Spirit.
There are so many times in my life when I wished that following the signs of the Spirit of God in the world was easier, more linear, and simple to follow. There have been times when I have longed to just stay right where I was---to not be compelled to move.
There have been times when all I wanted was to be free from the disturbing, chaotic Spirit of God.
But when I have moved... when I have chased after the Spirit... when I have found the courage to trust that there is purpose in the disturbances, order in what seems like chaos... I have found abundant life--the likes of which I could have never imagined otherwise. I am so glad that God doesn't hold back.
Maybe you are in a space in your life where you are experiencing the disturbing movement of the Spirit, and you don't know what to do next. My prayer is that you will let go of your fear and chase after the Spirit with wild abandon. If you do, be assured that you will find life, and more besides.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.