1 Corinthians 2:1-13 tells us that when Paul preached he tried to present the message God gave him in simple, straightforward terms without a lot of show or philosophical shine because he knew that many would not get it. He knew this because it was not one’s scholarly ways, academic standing, or powerful place in the world that allowed one to have an awakening from God. Only the Spirit of God moving with you can bring spiritual awakening, and this is something no person can manufacture.
This text makes me think this morning about times I’ve had what I feel were awakenings in my soul, that caused me to see the world with new eyes. I can think of when I first began to grasp the concept of grace, that God loves me for whom I am and nothing I can do can add or take away from God’s loving acceptance of me. I think about when I was awakened to the experience of LGBT people in our communities, seeing them as beloved children of God just as they are, and realizing my old way of treating them with judgment or prejudice which I had been taught in the Adventist and evangelical churches of my childhood was not how Christ was calling me to act. I can think of when conversations with some people who’d experienced systemic racism awakened me to the way in which our society has stacked the deck against people of color and the way racism unconsciously expresses itself in so many daily interactions
Each of these experiences opened me up to life in ways that have helped me exercise more compassion, understanding, and care in ways that I feel help my relationship with God and help me be a person following Christ’s foot-steps in work of love, justice, and compassion.
Each time I can also think of times I tried to show what I’d discovered to others, and how it would end in hurt feelings and argument, as we each tried to convince the other which way was right.
I think Paul is suggesting giving up trying to convince others because ultimately an awakening can only happen by the Spirit. We can only share our story, speak our truth, and seek to live it out. We cannot make another see the world with new eyes. Only God can. We must trust if we share our story, speak our truth, and live it that God will open hearts and minds when they are ready. Though speaking our truth and being ready to answer honest questions about it can be transforming, trying to convince another of what they are not open to now will only bring heartache and alienation. We have to learn to trust the Spirit to awaken when others are ready
I think it is also an encouragement. I don’t know about you, but I often have times I get really frustrated with myself. I look and see so much about myself I wish were different. I have character flaws I’ve been trying to improve for years that linger despite my best efforts. In such times, we can shake our heads, throw up our hands, and say “what’s the point?”
We are reminded our own awakenings are what begin to transform us, and they happen not by our own action but by the move of the Spirit within us. And though we have practices in our lives like meditation, mindfulness, prayer, devotional practices, that can help us become open to Spirit and ways we can follow up on our experiences of awakening, ultimately the awakening itself comes when it comes. We must be patient with ourselves, continuing to seek healing, growth, recovery, and liberation in our own lives.
This is why the image for the spiritual life is often a tree of life. Planted in the ground, it grows when it is in good soil, when it drinks deep the waters. That growth is natural, inevitable, when planted by the riverside and no amount of berating or correcting it will speed it up.
So with us. Our growth will come naturally, as we continue to open ourselves up to Spirit. We need to not judge ourselves or berate ourselves at its speed of progress, but instead continue to place ourselves in situations in which we can open for more fully to Spirit.