On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fired up the disciples, “The crowd was bewildered because each one hard them speaking in the language of each.” The divine speaks to each of us in language we can understand and respond to. In Sara Miles’ case, it is the language of food. Miles, an atheist and former restaurant cook among other things, responded to Jesus alive in her life by feeding Jesus’ sheep––that is everyone who would come––and establishing a food bank ministry in San Francisco.
Reading Mile’s memoir, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, I was struck by the inconvenience and terror, as well as the growth beyond our anticipating and understanding that can come from following Jesus. This was certainly true for me when I knew God was calling me to write. I was busy running my home, raising two children, volunteering in their schools and church, in fact I was embarking on a year of home-schooling my oldest daughter for her fifth grade.
I didn’t think I could do it, but I couldn’t put God off once I recognized God’s lead. Unlike Sara Miles, I’m not providing food to hundreds of people each week. I offer a different sort of food. I believe in the power of writing to feed our hunger to know ourselves and be known and have seen glimpses of that deep connection in the few hours I am privileged to spend with strangers and friends when I lead workshops . And like Sara, I see that saying, “Yes, I will follow,” is a continual process that opens up new challenges and vistas.
For me that new place is writing with troubled youth. Why? My nephew is a violent, mentally ill teenager. As much as I want to, I can’t fix anything in his life. What I can do is pray for him. What I can do is offer writing to other at-risk youth, to give them a safe place, if only for a few hours to explore their lives on the page. At least that’s what I’m sure God told me to do during a worship service at Annual Conference a few years ago.
Once I finished crying and faced my fears in the wake of that experience, I said to God, “I hear you. I intend to do what you ask, but I’m not ready. I’m not equipped.” Through the synchronicity of the spirit, and the generous support of my local church, I will be attending a training from June 27 through July 1 in the East Bay to learn the Amherst Writer’s and Artists method of leading writing workshops . This method is used in many situations that need healing––with women in poverty, cancer patients, at-risk youth and more.
In theory, when I leave the training, I will have the skills to work with troubled youth. It’s another way to feed Jesus’ sheep. I’m still apprehensive about whether I'll have the skills, and how I'll relate to those sheep. Will I, a middle-aged, middle-class white woman who doesn’t like rap music, will be able to offer any of the “food” they so desperately need?
On Pentecost my church choir sang Come, Holy Spirit, an anthem by Mary K. Beall who wrote that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost wasn’t so much about beginning the church as it was about equipping the church. I pray that I will keep trusting the Spirit to equip me as I attempt to be a faithful follower.
I pray for each of us, wherever we are in age, circumstance or fitness––spiritual or physical––that the Spirit will come to us in the language of Pentecost, a language that we each understand uniquely, to blow wind and set on fire the gifts we can share in this world. May we all be food for Jesus’ sheep.