Guest Post: "The Spirit Groans"
Our downtown music and arts director, Justin Carlson, recently sent me a poetic reflection in response to a sermon I preached from Romans 8. I was so moved by it that I asked for his permission to share it with you. Justin is perhaps the most prayerful and contemplative friend I have, and I hope his words bless and encourage you like they did me, particularly those who are groaning in weakness right now. Please know that God groans with you.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
My weakness, a place that too often feels like a scorched landscape. My feet shuffling through the barren ash, praying that the distant horizon will provide the oasis for which my soul longs. That respite that comes from falling, even recklessly, onto softer blades, where silence is not an enemy but a friend. That place where I can look ahead, knowing that something better lies ahead and not some version of my troubled imagination.
I too easily forget that my weakness reveals my humanity. I am not speaking of my fallenness but my glory. The place where the weight of my limitations is far too much to carry or sustain. The place where desperation is not but a breath but a language. The place where hope is more fully realized because it does not rely on my independence but upon the Spirit who groans for me. The Spirit who intercedes not out of forced obligation but out of His very nature. His goodness. His pursuit. His longing. The longing for me to know more deeply the affection of the Father, an affection not reduced to simply my needs being met but my person being refined and shaped into something more human, more alive.
Why should I mask something this necessary? Why should I pretend a strength that has little to do with the abundant supply of the Father? Why should I resist the invasion of the Spirit, whose provision is a more robust joy, not simply that which I can procure with my hands. I cannot determine to be more weak. I simply must confess and submit to it, allowing my heart to form, even when it feels like it is in disarray, its pieces shattered beyond repair.
The Spirit groans.
When I do not have the words to speak. When my language is but mumbled frustration, curses hurled into the darkness. The tightness of my muscles, my anger sporadic and violent. The fearful quiet giving a voice to the resounding cacophony of self-condemnation. The unbearable abuse against the very thing that leads me to the Father’s embrace. O, how I long to be kind to myself. To be patient. To not quickly resign the call to love to those around me, but to myself as well. The Spirit’s language is one of intercession, of love, of longing.
It is humbling, even disconcerting to know that God prays for me. Too often I bear a burden that I simply cannot bear. Every need, every longing, every fear, everything. Pressing against my back, the misplaced challenge to keep going, to man up, to show everyone that you are who you say you are. But who do I say that I am? A man with it all together, one with few weaknesses and strengths to prove? But, that posture is not assumed in the Spirit’s cry. That posture is not assumed in the Spirit’s help. If he is our helper, we are weak. Why should we hide it if it is the very thing that brings life?
Joy is a pervasive thing. It pushes against the places that sit dormant behind columns of locks, not intimidated by the illusion of safety but eager to shatter the faulty edifices and fill the space with a better version of love. Oh, how I long for love. Not one that bows to a version of myself but to the honest self. The one that confesses my weakness, not as an anthem of false-humility but as a cry of dependence and deliverance. This is not a place in which to wallow but to thrive.
God is working.
When my panic haunts me, God is working. When the voices are an angry crowd banging on the door, God is working. When my expectation seems cursed with inevitable disappointment, God is working. He has me. He knows me. My panic does not put Him in a panic. His intercession goes far deeper, into places still being formed, ahead to a future of greater freedom, and thus greater weakness.
The Spirit helps me in my weakness. Oh, that my posture would change today. The renewal of my mind. The restoration of my heart and the surety of its cry, not for self-preservation but for dependence. That is a hard place in which to live. But it’s a place that will bring greater imagination.
When I am too angry, too tired to pray, the Spirit groans. When I don’t know what to say, my language mumbled and messy, the Spirit intercedes. And this teaches me to pray, to simply come, boldly like child, knowing that the Father receives me, as he has been praying for me all along.