In hindsight, Pat Gruits preached one of her most impactful messages ever at Christ Church last year. It was Pentecost Sunday and we had chosen her because of her stature and roots in the Pentecostal movement. If anyone could “call the fire down” it would be Pat Gruits. Well, she preached what we expected on Sunday morning and took us on a stroll down Memory Lane. Then she made a strong appeal for us to come back for the night service because she had more to say about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, mostly out of respect for her, a good crowd returned for the evening service.
She began that night telling us how God had spoken to her over twenty-five years ago. The word came in the sort of prophetic stirring of the soul that Pentecostals and Charismatics believe to often be God’s voice. She was called that day to build a first class hospital in Haiti. The problem was, she was not a missionary. She spoke no French. She had no medical training. (She faints at the sight of blood.) She was a well-educated, cultured, economically secure woman in Detroit getting well along in years. But God had spoken. So she headed out for Haiti.The world didn’t roll out the red carpet for her new calling. Her husband died on the way to Haiti. The Haitian government was not impressed with her idea. Some Christians kept telling her that this project was a diversion.
The word had come to her but it was only a word inside her own being. That’s where most words stop. Conceiving is a great deal easier than giving birth!
Dorothy Sayers wrote a great book for artists called The Mind of The Maker. It is a reflection on God as Creator. She draws inferences about how human beings create things by considering how God created things. First, she begins with God’s being. Christians believe that God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She says the Father is the source of being for all that is, visible and invisible. The Son is the word become flesh, the process by which God becomes a part of His own creation. The Holy Spirit is God as received by creation and in relationship back to God.
A Sayers point out that for a novel to exist requires that some person get an idea about plots, characters and so forth. Everything the novel will become will have its source in that author’s inner being. However, at some point the author must pour that idea for his novel through pen and ink. That is a messier process than the idea in its pure and abstract form. Finally, once the novel gets written, it must be offered to others in some concrete form. The idea becomes a book and dwells among us. However, for the process to be complete, the book must be read and absorbed into another mind. This, Sayers claims, is the nature of all creative work.
Sister Pat had conceived an idea from God but no one could see it. She had to actually go to Haiti and struggle with the pain and deprivation of the Haitian people. She could not do her work totally removed from the mess. So she did what she could. She trained pastors. She helped start churches. She opened first aid stations. She poured her being into Haiti.
One day, after twenty years, Haiti received her. The government called her to a meeting where she was introduced to representatives from the World Health Organization. They wanted to build a first class hospital in a rural area if she would help them find doctors and other health workers and would agree to manage it. She had cast her bread upon the waters and after many days it had returned. She had not been just praying and prophesying up in Detroit. She had been busy, incarnating the word. It had become flesh and living in Haiti. Now it was calling to her and working to complete the vision.
As I listened to her sermon, I realized that I needed to broaden my understanding of spiritual gifts. It turns out that inspiration is not a final product but only a raw product. Words, even powerful words, must take on flesh. They must move from abstraction to concrete form. It’s often a real messy process.