June 1, 2018

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Invoke the Holy Spirit to calm the storms in your busy life

Patti LambMost kids are beyond excited about the final few days of the school year—but not my 13-year-old son Henry. Although he’s looking forward to summer and shifting into a lower gear, one thing he particularly dreads about the semester’s end is final exams.

Being tested comprehensively on all he’s learned during the year doesn’t sit well with him. He comes by it honestly. I, too, dreaded finals, and the thought of standardized tests sent me into a dither during my days as a student.

The pressure my son puts on himself is palpable. As the final weeks of the school year approach, stomachaches surface, headaches creep up and sleepless nights settle in. Then comes compulsive grade checking.

When I asked Henry to break his anxiety down to its smallest form, he expressed that after working so hard for a long time, he doesn’t want a test—one that’s weighted heavily—to bring down his grade and make him look like a failure, like he wasn’t really trying.

I assured Henry that his dad and I know he is giving his school work his best efforts, but that didn’t silence that “you’re-not-good-enough” voice.

Then I had a flashback to my school career, and I remembered how much pressure I put on myself to perform, and my mom would send me off with this prayer: “Come, Spirit. Enlighten her mind.”

She explained that inviting the spirit of God to dwell in me and guide me is a most powerful prayer. When summoned, God, who is only goodness, receives our heartfelt prayers and pours out grace. Even if his answers don’t come in the form we request in our prayers (“Help me to get a good grade,” or “Let me get into this college”), our prayers are received and grace flows.

Recently, we celebrated Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, which took place 10 days after our Lord’s Ascension and 50 days after his resurrection. When Jesus left this world, he gave us an advocate—the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity—to remain with us. Jesus promised he would never leave us alone, and the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us to help us navigate this messy life.

In the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

No where in that list does St. Paul mention a fruit called “perfection” or “success” or “straight A’s.” But when we invite God to work through us, the fruits our labors produce come in forms that please God and enrich our relationship with him and others.

I read a passage in a favorite book of mine, Present Over Perfect, a few weeks ago and I highlighted it. I dug it out and shared it with my son:

“After a lifetime of believing that the voices that mattered were ‘Out There,’ approving or disapproving of me, I’m learning to trust the voice within, the voice of God’s Spirit, the whisper of my own soul. And when you learn to listen to that voice, the screaming of the crowd matters less. In some blessed moments, it matters not at all.”

So on the last day of the school year, as he braced himself for the threatening math final, I sent Henry off with a simple prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit.”

And I didn’t ask God for an “A” or a “B,” but that this storm is chased by the calm of the Holy Spirit.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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