Wisdom for the road

Spring can be a bittersweet time for an educator. Students have begun to find and share their God-given talents. As St. Paul says, “It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special” (1 Thes 1:4). Yet, as wonderful as it is to share this time with students, one must step back as it is time for them to leave. This year, I often started class with a song followed by a discussion of verses that spoke to us about God. In keeping with that tradition, this column is my send-off delivered through lines from some hymns and rap songs. 

This weekend is Pentecost Sunday where we will together reflect upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of these gifts is wisdom. The essence of wisdom is simply allowing the Holy Spirit to direct you where God wishes you to travel. 

Hearing God’s call begins with recognizing that things in this world sometimes are just not right. As Tupac says in “Changes,” “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do.” Next part is recognizing who had a different set of rules and thus can lead the way for us. As Lecrae says in “Rebel,” “Jesus was a rebel, and He lived His life by a different set of rules.” Father John Dear clarifies the definition of rebel, describing Jesus as “the revolutionary face of the God of non-violence.” 

The song “Here I am Lord” directs our attention to answering this call. God asks, “I the Lord … have heard my people cry. Who will bear My light to them?” Taking the time to know one’s talents and the limits of one’s expertise allow one to discern that place or situation where one can enjoy making a difference. Then one’s heart can joyfully respond, “Here I am Lord. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.” 

Every journey has obstacles. To mankind some obstacles can seem insurmountable. Take heart and remember, “For with God nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). Listen to the physical challenge from the words of the song “Be Not Afraid,” “You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.” Why? God goes before you and with you always. 

Don’t let yourself get frustrated when the route seems long. The verse, “You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way,” is there for a reason. What we often perceive as wandering are really important life experiences. Those lessons allow us to effectively accomplish our true ministry. Hear the next verse, “You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.” One day you realize that you have gone further and done more than you ever could have imagined possible. That purposeful wandering was driven by the Holy Spirit and prepared you for success with the unique challenge where God asked you to serve Him. 

At times we will struggle and lose. We may forge ahead only to have to backtrack. We will each feel doubt and despair. We will make mistakes and even turn our back on God. What to do when we find ourselves alone? Surprisingly, these are the times we will feel closest to God. In the song “Forgiveness,” tobyMac says, “No matter how lost you are; no matter how hurt you are; no matter how wrong you are; no matter who you are; you’re not that far, you’re not too far from forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness.” God’s answer, from the hymn “You Are Mine,” “I will come to you in the silence. I will lift you up from all your fear. Do not be afraid, I am with you.” This cycle of struggle, choosing to learn from it and allowing ourselves to be renewed by God is the secret to a peaceful, joyous and child-like soul. Jesus describes such souls as ready to receive the gift of Heaven. 

This life approach allows us to view the gift of each day as does DMX. In the song, “Ready to Meet Him,” he says, “I thank You Lord for today, and I will pray for tomorrow. I thank You Lord for the love of my life and a friend.” Whatever the day brings, we each are promised, as described in the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings,” “God will make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.” When the day brings a challenge, we may feel more like the bowed man depicted in Lorenzo Quinn’s sculpture “The Hand of God.” Other days we may feel like the newborn sleeping peacefully in God’s hands. Amazingly, no matter where or how far from home the Holy Spirit has directed us, each of us has and will always rest secure in the palm of God’s hands. 

[Note: please include the qualifier “clean” in any Internet search for rap songs or lyrics.]

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer born and raised in Fall River. She is a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish and received her Ph.D. in neurochemistry from Boston College and teaches in the Chemistry Department at Rhode Island College. She can be reached at biochemwz@hotmail.com.

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