By Clara Duffy
A couple of months ago, I would also have told you that I feel the Holy Spirit when I am closest to God, most filled with joy, most surrounded by community. And I still believe that the Holy Spirit is present in mountaintop moments. I probably understood, too, that the Holy Spirit is around when you’re feeling low. But I didn’t get it.
Then one day recently I was reading through some blogs. I am the editor of my school’s literary magazine, and the creative writing class that publishes it writes daily blogs to generate content. I was reading my favorites, one of my friend’s blogs, one from that funny kid who sits in the corner. And because I have them all saved on my phone, I stumbled upon a blog that I hadn’t read. It was written by a girl in my class whom I don’t talk to much; she had recently had a baby, she wore black lipstick; it wasn’t that I disliked her, we just didn’t relate. I started to read a post she had written called “Untold Story.” There she laid out in simple, straightforward words the story of her life. And it broke my heart.
This girl was born into an abusive home. She was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by both of her parents. She grew up and became a teen mom, was kicked out of her house, and is now living with ridicule from her boyfriend’s mother. She struggles to hold on, struggles to buy diapers for her baby but continues, in other posts, to write about how she wants to travel, how she believes in the good in this world.
I read the post as I lay on my bed, avoiding helping my family clean the kitchen, staring at my phone, and thinking, “God, Why?” How could this happen? Why does she get that and I have this? What have I done to have this loving family, this happy life filled with opportunity and support and grace? Nothing! I did nothing to deserve this! In that moment, I felt such a great sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit. God had driven a wedge into my heart.
I got up on shaky legs and went to find my mom, handing her my phone with the blog and asking her to read it. I got in the shower and immediately was overcome with emotion, doubling over hysterically. I pleaded with God, beat my fists on his chest, and cried, “God, why is there such suffering? How do you let your children be hurt so deeply? What do any of us do to deserve anything?” Talking to my mom later, the tears spilled down my cheeks, and with them went every ounce of ignorance of what I have. I felt guilty, filled with aching guilt because I don’t deserve this. I have done nothing to deserve such grace. And this other girl has done nothing to deserve such a bad lot.
All I know is not everyone got the hand I was dealt, and I sometimes need to realize that.
I believe in God. I also believe that God loves me. But more importantly I believe that God loves everyone else in this world – the rapists, the murderers, the janitors, the high school teachers, the annoying freshman, the old people, the third-grade bullies, the priests, the prostitutes; I believe he loves everyone in the world just as much as he loves me, which is immeasurably. And though I may not understand how God can love the guy who shot the kindergarteners in Connecticut, he does. God is bigger than this. I don’t know how, but he is.
I don’t know why some people are born into such terrible circumstances. I know I cannot fix the broken world, I cannot hold everyone in my hands or in my heart and knit them back together; I cannot keep myself together. But I think God can.
I was broken up that night a few weeks ago when the Holy Spirit completely interrupted my life, turned me upside down and shook me by the ankles telling me to wake up and stop living in such sweet ignorance. The Holy Spirit is felt at the top of the mountain, surely. But that was the day the Spirit called me to the bottom of the valley.
Clara Duffy is 17 years old; she will be a high school senior in the fall. She is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Harlingen TX and hopes to attend the University of Texas at Austin after high school graduation.
Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of Reflections magazine. To read the entire issue, click here.
Clara was going about her routine life, doing her job as editor of her school’s literary magazine, when she was led to her insight from the spirit.
Where, in your routine life, does the spirit tend to show up? Do you pay attention to that?
What might happen if you did?