Sighs Too Deep

Today’s reading from Romans is one of my favorites.  Paul says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  (Romans 8:26-27)

Most of my best prayers are Spirit-driven.  I have no words, just an inward sigh, more like a groan.  The Spirit has interceded.  Stuck as I am deep in the well of my pain or grief or even deep joy, I am there with Christ. My release of profound longing, pain, or even profound joy has a recipient in my ever-present God.

I was walking around the pond near our house this morning.  The sun was still below the horizon, but announcing its imminent arrival in hues of orange and green.  Geese cropped the grass near the water, and a lone pelican stood motionless at shoreline, their homely-looking, big, orange feet just barely submerged in the water.  That sigh too deep for words rose up in me.  How astonishingly lucky I am, how blessed.  All the riches of the earth are right here.

Two beloved guys from my faith community have died in the past couple of months, and they have left huge holes in the web of our life together.  Touching the edges of the empty places, a sigh wells up in me, filling my chest and bringing tears to my eyes.  My Beloved Christ, who knows what loss is, and grief, is silently present with me.  Many people pray for me, as I pray for those I know.  None of us is ever alone; all of us are connected.  

A statue of a coyote looks out over the pond.  Today its ears were broken off and lying on the ground.  Empty fast food wrappers and cups sat on a picnic table not ten feet away from some trash cans.  An abandoned bobber floated out in the water, no doubt attached to a transparent fishing line that could entangle a duck swimming by.  More trash littered the bushes nearest the parking lot.  A sigh like a groan swelled my chest as I imagined all this thoughtless neglect multiplied a billion times across the planet by humans who will not think beyond their own self interest.  We’re like yeast in a test tube, poisoning our environment with our wastes and, just like the yeast will run out of resources and die, so might we.  My sigh is a plea for divine intervention and holy inspiration even as it is a groan of utter despair.  I am not a person who is dramatically impacted by this destructiveness – yet.  The poor of the world suffer for it now, dealing with heat, drought, flooding, and the aftermath of natural disasters caused by climate change.  Am I preaching, here?  Yes.  But I am also sighing the Spirit’s prayer.

You know the rest, the huge weight of horror and sadness that comes in watching the nightly news or scrolling through the feeds on your phone each day, or experiencing your own personal grief and frustration that is often too deep to articulate, too big to fix.  It is a good thing that God, who searches our hearts, knows what is profoundly true for us.  It is a good thing that God is right here with us, suffering what we suffer.  Because you are human, you know the full breadth of weakness and the inability to pray.

You also know the precious moments: the joy of a new grandbaby’s toothless smile, the wonder of seeing the cosmos through a telescope, the simple pleasure of watching a fellow parishioner take communion alongside you.

The Spirit sighs your prayers.  She does, and God knows her mind.  Hallelujah!

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