In fifth grade I had one class I hated above all others, penmanship. I know, it no longer exists. I am a dinosaur for even remembering it. The word pen-man-ship is itself a combination of an obsolete instrument with a sexist identifier and a seldom used vessel for navigating communication. For those of you who don’t know what penmanship means, it is the archaic practice of cursive writing according narrowly defined set of rules, akin to teaching figure skating to active boys wanting to play hockey. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul in the 8thchapter of Romans:
We have not received a spirit of restrained language, rigid rules, repeated practice with fountain pen and paper; we have received fire.
I was under the lash of slavery. I felt like a communication failure until I bought my first computer in 1984. Within two weeks of unpacking that DOS 2.0 unit with double 5 ¼” floppies and no hard-drive, I was free. I could write letters, poems, and plays. I could share things with others and even submit my own creative writing for publication. All of this without having to go through a secretary who complained about my penmanship.
Undoubtably, your experience with cursed cursive writing is different from mine. I rebelled in fifth grade and refused to learn penmanship. I was the Spartacus of my elementary school. I was once a slave, but now I have been adopted into a new communication environment, where I am seen, not as a child to be chained to his desk until he learns the Palmer method for making each letter, but as a full heir of the information age. I doubt you feel as strongly about this gift as I do, but I hope that you feel this way about your Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul says that with the Holy Spirit we are no longer slaves but adopted children. We are free now to explore all the wonderful things we can do. We no longer follow senseless rules. We explore new relationships that are led by compassion. We offer forgiveness. We seek for justice. We feed the hungry. We walk in the same freedom that Jesus showed as he communicated the love of God.
What spirit are you looking for today? The spirit of nostalgia, where change is forbidden and hope denied? No. Seek instead the Holy Spirit, where gifts are given to be used and compassion is the only rule.