Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 107:1-16; Numbers 20:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Passage selected for reflection: Psalm 107:1-9 (NIV)
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. 5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. 6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. 8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Story. We all have one, but how many of us have forgotten pieces of ours? As we read through todays scripture, the psalmist encourages the people to “tell their story”. Notice what follows the prompt; images of wandering, of being unsettled, of hungry and thirsty bodies. Before the wonder of God is introduced, the reality of the human experience is told. Modern evangelicalism would have you say “but isn’t God good?”, ancient faith would say “yes, and look at this pain first. Tell the truth; God certainly isn’t afraid of it.” Author Glennon Doyle sums it up perfectly, “First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.”
In the ongoing hurt of a world-wide pandemic, as so many experience loss of income, loss of loved ones and loss of the life they assumed they’d be living, what we need more than ever is to tell the story. To tell the truth about our pain, our loss, our fears…and to remember our own stories of hope and redemption. We pull hope from the past to give us hope for the future, remembering how God has provided for us and others before and we dare to believe that God will provide again. This lent we cling to both realities- the present pain and the risky hope. We dare to believe that God will do it all again; that our cries will be heard, that our hopes will not fail us, that our empty bellies and hollow hearts will be filled to overflowing by the God of abundance who has always desired good things for their beloved creation.
When we tell the truth, our story, we tell it all and we hold nothing back. Remember the brutal hurt and the ecstatic joy, just like the Israelites that read and re-read those first psalms. They told the story of their hurt, of their betrayal, of their hard-earned lessons and the long roads traveled. They told the story of their cries-the cries of hundreds of years and thousands of voices. They told the story of answered prayers, of water breaking through rocks and clearing a way in the wilderness. They told the whole story because all of it mattered, and so can we. In doing so we boldly proclaim that God isn’t just present in the good, but in the very bad. God doesn’t just bless the faithful, but loves and listens to and is near to those who struggle to be faithful.
I get this. I get the feeling of emptiness- of elements of my life wanting so desperately to be filled. I cry out to the LORD, I want to be delivered from my distress. This point of my story doesn’t have resolution yet- how the emptiness will be filled isn’t known yet. And so I read the words of the Psalmist, I echo the cries of the ancient ones, and I take a deep breath…in….out…in…out…I remember I’m not alone and I dare to believe that God will do what God has always done. I will be filled again.
Whatever your story looks like today, remember it and remember that the whole thing matters. Dare to believe that the present moment can hurt and still be filled with promise, just like the oasis that dares to exist in the middle of the desert.
Take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds, then slowly let it out. As you do, feel your whole body- what does the breath do? How do your muscles expand and relax? Where in your body does the breath feel most life giving? Take another breath. Remember the words scripture begins with: “One day the Eternal God scooped dirt out of the ground, sculpted it into the shape we call human, breathed the breath that gives life into the nostrils of the human, and the human became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7 The Voice) God is always breathing new life into us; how can you partner with the new life God wants to bring into your story today? Remember a time when you felt new life- hold that memory with you as you go throughout your day, breathe deeply and focus on the memory of new life.
God of Ancients--of long ago and just a moment ago, remind us what is true today. Give us grace and courage to remember our whole story- all the moments we’ve felt you so dearly and the moments you felt a million miles away. Remind us that every cry is heard and held, tended-to with time. Would this season be filled with such memories; of new life, of old hurts long healed, of things not yet satisfied. Fill us with hope- the scrappy kind with bruises and wounds that just refuses to give up. Thank you for loving all of us, always. Amen.
About the Author
Rebekah Strobel is an ordained reverend who lives in Burien, WA with her husband Nate, and her stepson Jack. After years of church ministry she has transitioned to non-profit leadership, serving residents of low income and affordable housing units. She loves Jesus, people, laughing, crying and nature.