For me, church is often one long exercise of trying to stay present. Multiple times, my mind drifts off like a balloon rising far above the hymns, prayers, and readings. I find it again caught in a zephyr of thoughts that seemed unimportant an hour ago.
I pull the string down and coil it around my fingers. I hold my bouncing mind securely and open myself to receive an insight or image that might feed the hunger within.
The sermon is a little easier. Today, Claude, our student priest, reminds us of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor.” The poor, I hear Claude say, are those who need to rely on God–for everything.
While I clean up the kitchen after supper, I listen to an On Being podcast. Sharon Salzberg tells Krista Tippet that her spiritual journey began when she heard, “There’s suffering in life. It’s not just you. You don’t have to feel aberrant and alone and weird. It’s a part of life, and you belong.”
“It’s one of life’s big mysteries to me,” Salzberg says, “that we don’t talk to each other about the most common things, like the fact that we wake up in the morning feeling confused and scared and full of self-doubt. The miracle is, when someone finally names it, that’s so liberating.”
In the night, I wake for the third time and try to get back to sleep, I become aware of the jumble of disconcerting thoughts in my head. I feel confused, scared and full of self-doubt. I see how these feelings pull me up and out into a zephyr of catastrophizing. Then I hear Sharon’s compassionate voice. Of course you have these thoughts. We all do.
I hear Claude. We are all poor and need God for everything.
With each breath, I reel myself back.
I need you, I inhale
I’m here, God exhales in me.
The next morning, I go to worship again. This time, it’s morning prayers on Zoom with my SoulStream community. In it, there’s a poem by Mary Oliver. In the poem, is an image illustrating what I just experienced.
This morning the redbirds’ eggs
have hatched and already the chicks
are chirping for food. They don’t
know where it’s coming from, they
just keep shouting, “More! More!”
Something in me is like a newly hatched bird, vulnerable and needy. Something in me fears if I don’t get what I need, I will die. So I open my grotesquely large mouth and cry, “More! More!”
Of course, you do, God says, sounding a lot like Sharon Salzberg. And God comes like a mother bird. She feeds this blessed, beloved part of me with words instead of worms that she’s picked up from the mouths of others.
I am fed.
Reflection questions for your Lenten journey
- How do you feel when you see and hear that needy part of yourself?
- Imagine God coming close with compassion, understanding and acceptance. Linger there and notice what you sense in your body. What thoughts or feelings arise?
- Take another moment to reflect: How has God come and fed you in the last 24 hours? What thoughts and feelings arise as you consider the “worms” God brought?
- Share your feelings honestly with God.