By Chaplain Cristina Ferri
Lectionary reading for 4/4/2023: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
Selected passage: Isaiah 49:1-7
Isaiah 49:1,3,4,6,7 The Inclusive Bible
1Islands, listen to me!
Pay attention, distant peoples!
YHWH called me before I was born,
and named me from my mother’s womb.
3The Holy One said to me,
“You are my Servant, Israel,
in whom I will be glorified.”
4I had been thinking, “I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing!” –
yet all the while my cause was with YHWH,
and my reward was with my God.
6“It is not enough for you to do my bidding,
to restore the tribes of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations,
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
7Thus says YHWH,
the Redeemer of Israel, the Holy One…
“Rulers will stand when you walk in the room and court officials will pay homage
because of YHWH, who is faithful,
because of the Holy One of Israel, who chose you.”
(TW: trauma, suicidal ideation)
While reading this reflection, if you feel your heart racing or discomfort in any way, return your attention to your Breath. Breathe in deeply, the name of God, YHWH. Remember you are safe and loved exactly as you are. Breathe out and release all discomfort from your body.
Thanks to a series of traumatic events in my life, I didn’t feel known, important, or worthy and I ended up with a deep-seated need for control in my life. I wasn’t taught about the Love, the Glory, the Redeemer, or the Faithful God. Because of this, I kept God in a very small, very secure box, so as not to have Wrath unleashed upon me. I lived in a constant state of fear and shame; an inherent, chronic pain of “knowing” that God didn’t look favorably upon me. When I was a teenager, I decided that no longer existing was the only way to relieve this misery. Thankfully, the attempt failed. Soon after, I began finding unhealthy ways to numb the pain, so that I didn’t feel out of control.
Years later, after coming to my senses, I began to deconstruct the box I held God in. At first, I thought, “All these wasted years,” or as Isaiah states, “I have exhausted myself for nothing!” But silly me didn’t realize that my heart “was with YHWH, and my reward was with my God.” I couldn’t see that in making God smaller, I was making myself smaller. I had to surrender my control to the One who “called me before I was born.” I had to see my worth through the eyes of my Creator. This led to my heart being open to allowing God to reveal the true Character that I had been missing all along. With this revealing came a relationship and with the relationship came abiding.
Where once the darkness overshadowed my life, God Redeemed me. Not only was I ‘restored’ and ‘brought back’ to life, I found the Light within. From a spiral of uncertainty, fear, and hopelessness, Hope brought safety, joy, and meaning to my life. YHWH is, has been, and always will be Faithful. And no matter how many times I may fall, God will always be shining the Light and guiding me, as long as I continue to allow the gift of Mercy to continue to Restore me… and leave the control to the One who “named me from my mother’s womb.”
Allow yourself time to listen to this song, and release all striving, and abide in God’s presence.
As you move into the final moment of rest, take some time to pause, breathe, and give praise for all the ways God has Redeemed you.
Breathe in: YHWH
Breathe out: Your name is in me
Continue to focus on your breath and give yourself the gift of rest by staying silent and listening for the Truth and Light.
I pray that you feel you are loved and known,
that you know you matter,
that you are chosen,
that God is always moving in your life,
that you hear the Voice who called you before you were born,
that you release the striving and replace it with abiding,
that the Light shines brighter for you day by day,
that the Reward outweighs the pain,
that your life be filled with Glory and Redemption,
that you won’t worry about the coming days,
and above all that all distant peoples will be moved by your story,
and know of God’s salvation.
About the Author
Cristina Ferri is a person in long-term recovery, a Spiritual Director, and Chaplain at the Women's Department of Corrections in Rhode Island. She loves to create safe spaces for healing through intentional and meditative art practices. Cristina's passions are justice, recovery, mental health advocacy, breaking stigmas, and above all... love (& dogs).