Fire, Wind, and Spiritual Adulting


Happy Pentecost. And welcome to spiritual adulting, where discipleship means discerning the movement of the Spirit and responding to it.

I have often been caught up in the drama of this feast – the driving wind and tongues of fire and different languages proclaiming the Gospel, all understood by everyone gathered. But underneath the drama is an invitation, and I don’t want to miss it this time.

I made my religious vows on the vigil of Pentecost, and I did get caught up in the excitement of that day. I was delighted that sisters, friends, and family all came to the ceremony and the reception that followed. My mom is an artist, so we had flame decorations on each table and throughout the whole room. It was a time of laughter and joy, feasting and dancing. I felt like I was on fire with excitement and passion. I shot out of bed the next day with that same lingering excitement, and it lasted for the next few days too.

And then one day I woke up and thought – now what?

So much anticipation had gone into the vow celebration that I hadn’t thought a lot about living vowed life, and so the time following the ceremony felt more like crash-and-burn than exhilarating Pentecostal fire. Eventually, I did settle into ordinary life and learn to pay attention to the movement of the Spirit in its everyday expressions. It took me a minute, though.

I wonder if the disciples felt like that. They gathered to celebrate Pentecost, the Jewish feast that commemorates fifty days after Passover, which we celebrate fifty days after Easter. Their celebration was all – whoosh! Tongues of fire and wind! They were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they could talk to anyone and everyone. Wow!

But what happened when they woke up on the 51st day after Easter? Now what?

After the wind and fire and proclamations, many people were baptized. Then, in Acts, we hear what their communal life was like. They prayed together each day, and their community grew. I’m guessing each one of them grew too, as they learned what listening to the Holy Spirit means. It was a whole new way of being a disciple – following the Spirit within and not that guy from Galilee named Jesus.

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It seems to me that the invitation of Pentecost is to transition to a phase of spiritual adulting. “Adulting” is a word used by young adults to mean doing the things that responsible grownups do that they didn’t have to as adolescents. So, adulting in the secular context looks like paying the bills and getting an oil change and mowing the grass. Spiritual adulting looks like discerning the movement of the Spirit and then acting on what it prompts you to do. It’s me figuring out how to live vowed life after making vows. It’s figuring out what God is calling each of us to do without having the historical Jesus sit down with us and instruct.

Sometimes spiritual adulting makes me feel like I did on the brink of chronological adulthood – scared and unsure as I peered into the giant mystery of my future. Yikes! But here’s the thing: the Spirit does move. It always does. Just when I think I’m at an impasse or I don’t have a clue what to do next or things seem impossible, the Spirit moves, and something shifts. It may not look like tongues of fire, but it might look like a new connection with someone or an invitation that pops up on Facebook that I feel I need to try. It might not sound like preaching in my own language, but it might sound like a call back after a job interview or something someone happens to say that speaks right to my heart. It may not feel like a strong wind, but it might feel like positive energy that moves me from within toward something new, toward doing the thing that scares me, even though it scares me, because I know I’m called to do it.

Like the converts at Pentecost, we never met the historical Jesus, but we do know the risen Christ. We are the Church of the Spirit, the Church that calls ourselves to spiritual adulting. So, let’s stay open. Let’s listen. Let’s trust the Spirit to speak to us and through us. Let’s let it move us.


And if you feel like dancing with the Spirit, here’s something to get you moving!

By Sister Leslie Keener, CDP

My parents and I at my first vows.

My parents and I at my first vows.

Sister Leslie Keener, CDP is the director of God Space, a community-building spirituality ministry in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. She’s a Sister of Divine Providence with a Masters in Ministry and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreats from Creighton University. She directs retreats, meets with people for spiritual direction, and serves as the vocation director for her community. She also serves on the Coordinating Council of Spiritual Directors International. She enjoys music, meaningful conversations, and dancing.