Like Jesus did, many spiritualists compare the Holy Spirit to the wind—the breath of God. Both are invisible yet they can be felt, even heard; they stir the atmosphere in sometimes unpredictable and powerful ways. In the early 1960’s, when Peter, Paul, and Mary crooned the famous refrain, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…” they invited listeners to contemplate how many roads, seas, times, years, or deaths must be experienced before we recognize their sacred impact. If the answer is the Holy Spirit, as many religious people believe it to be, it is okay to get blown by the wind.
From childhood to adolescence, marriage to parenting, retirement to convalescence, many of us blow in the wind because, at different stages of life, we find ourselves drifting, darting, or swirling in various directions. There are a few times during the flight when our next chapter in life almost shouts to heaven for the Spirit’s guidance. Among them are post-college, empty nest, and retirement time.
My oldest sister graduated college one weekend in the early 70’s and was married the next weekend. Such a transition was typical then but now there is usually a decade gap between graduation and wedding days. Similarly, people are retiring earlier, sometimes in their 50’s, and living longer, often into their 90’s. They want those extended years to be meaningful, perhaps filled with travel, volunteer jobs, or contractual work. These time-periods, along with the one that occurs to mothers after they bid farewell to their youngest child who moves cross-country or goes away to college, are potential times of feeling the winds of change, monitoring our interior compass, and deepening spirituality.
Twenty-somethings average seven jobs in one decade. Depression or anxiety often surfaces within them because one third of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Half of them who grew up in Catholic households no longer affiliate with the church and half of them claim to have no plan for their life. They are turned off by political and religious ideologies. They express loneliness, detachment, bad relationships and bad bosses. It is no wonder that these drift-years are peak-years for alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide. But it is also a good time for discovering oneself. Author Paul Parker recalled, “As the darkness began to descend on me in my early 20’s, I thought I had developed a unique and terminal case of failure. I did not realize that I had merely embarked upon a journey toward joining the human race.”
Young adults put a lot of pressure on themselves to acquire an identity, to achieve success, and to gain happiness as a means to join the human race. But the process is filled with irony and a discovery that they don’t control how it happens. Immersed in social media, they ironically experience a crisis of feeling left out or drifting aimlessly in the breeze. A greater irony is one that they will realize later in life, if they can hang on, i.e., that happiness will be found not in the places they seek but in places that seek them, that success will be achieved not in exterior measures but interior discoveries, and that their true identity is tied to God. It can be found at the intersection of humanity and divinity, at the crossroads of where we come from and where we are going; it will be found here blowin’ in the wind.
I would like to issue an invitation to 20-somethings who’re interested in exploring the breath of the Holy Spirit and the winds of change in their lives to visit my Saint Charles Borromeo Retreat House. Here, we consider the journey of life, look down the pathways of commitment, and contemplate potential ascendancy in careers, dating and marriage, and spiritual and religious anchors. Here, we also discern relinquishing personal identity for interdependence while surrendering individual achievement and self-affirmation for a piece of universal wisdom or personal grace. Here, we determine the proper place to store our dreams, as well. Some retreatants will want to climb a higher, external spirituality, as Thomas Merton did in his Seven Storey Mountain while others will desire to explore a deeper, internal spirituality, as Saint Teresa of Avila did in her Interior Castles. But most of us will simply benefit from a spiritual assessment, reviewing our physical, mental, social, emotional, financial, and relational status vis-à-vis things that are passing and things that will remain. If we welcome the Holy Spirit, we will find the answer blowin’ in the wind of our daily existence and joyously turn the page into the next chapter of our life.
If you are interested in scheduling a two-hour mini-retreat to assess your place during the gap years of the 20’s, empty-nesting, or retirement, give me a call at 816-436-0880, or send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.