In the hall is where I would find her. Sometimes she would be moping the floor, other times helping fold sheets or pushing a cart of dirty laundry. Yet, whatever the task she was doing, she would always be talking with the other hospital workers ranging from the hospital administrators to those who worked in the cafeteria. Sometimes she was sharing a story about God’s movement in her life, sometimes she would be praying with others, and sometimes she would be humming hymns to herself while she worked. No matter who she was with or what she was doing, she shined brighter than not only everyone else in that hospital, but perhaps all the people I have met in my travels.
As a hospital chaplain, I never knew how Janice, who was a janitor at our hospital, was so spiritually filled every day she worked. What was it that allowed her to so loved by God that she had to tell each person about it?
Acts 19 1-7, can seem off-putting because it can be confusing. However, the relationship between baptism and the Holy Spirit and how they fit together in our own spiritual lives is the key point in this text.
For the early Christians in Ephesus, it was not their lack of belief in that the one, Jesus Christ, would deliver them from their sins, nor was it their not being part of the Christian community. Because after all, they were baptized. But there was something they were missing. And for us as baptized Christians, it’s something we also sometimes miss to see.
Perhaps we miss seeing it because we live in our world filled with political divisions, violence, greed, racism, hatred, and evil. Perhaps we miss it because we struggle with health illness, family divisions, relationship issues, job loss, financial problems, addiction issues, death, grief, and guilt, guilt, guilt. So what are we missing each week when we come to church, eat that bread and drink from that cup? What are still missing?
For many months of seeing Janice in the halls of our hospital, I had the opportunity to get to know her story and how faith played in her life. From growing up in a home where her father was absent in her life as a child to her mother who worked long hours to support her. To Janice getting pregnant at a young age and having to raise a baby on her own and seeing her own son lose his life to addiction in his early 20s. Janice knew what it was like to experience pain, grief, heartache, and loss. And she knows that through God’s son she will someday be delivered from her life of pain and heartache. But Janice had something else when I would see her in those halls. She had a secret ingredient that powered her through the up and downs of life. And for Janice that was the belief that she doesn’t feel the pain alone, she doesn’t weep alone, nor does she carry grief alone.
“If you accept the belief that baptism incorporates us in the mystical body of Christ, into the divine DNA, then you might say that the Holy Spirit is present in each of us, and thus we have the capacity for the fullness of redemption, of transformation,” writes Thomas Keating
For us as Christians, we cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the understanding of God as the Father/Mother, and of the Son, Jesus Christ. Yet the Holy Spirit serves to remind us of a spiritual presence that moves in our lives and in our world, despite the struggles we are dealing with in lives. For us, there is a hidden presence of compassion, social justice, and love moving behind the scenes. And it’s this secret ingredient that keeps us going.
I like to believe the Holy Spirit is that energy that allows us to keep moving when we find ourselves in a difficult situation. I like to believe the Holy Spirit is what helps us get through those challenging family issues we are dealing with right now or that health setback, or that financial situation we may be in. I like to believe it’s the Holy Spirit which allows us to say the right thing and the right time, or keeps us for saying what we truly think when we are tempted to say it. I like to believe the Holy Spirit reminds us of miracles, and that often it is what gives us miracles in our life. I like to believe the Holy Spirit is that background influence that holds us together, reminded us we are loved unconditionally, and that we are not alone.