By Sheli Sloterbeek
Lectionary reading for 3/17/2022: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 3:19-30; Revelation 2:8-11
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 63:1-8
Psalm 63:1-8 NLT
1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
EMBODIED LONGING FOR GOD
Do you feel these verses? Do you sense the depth of emotion?
This passage resonates deeply with me: “My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” I grew up in the northeast part of the US - ie. plenty of water. Sure, I might have lived through a drought or two growing up and the well might get cloudy, but it never ran dry. Then I moved to the southwest of the US. This change in scenery brought all of the passages of dryness and desert life into a new light for me. Rivers are dry until it rains a significant amount, which is hardly ever. The ground is so dry it can be impossible to even dig a hole. It takes so much extra care to plant something and have it actually grow. And if you pour water onto the hard ground it can’t even absorb at first. The outer crust of the earth must be softened before the water can begin to penetrate to the depths below. Plants begin to bend down without life-giving water. Cacti shrink as they use their water reserves. The wind gathers the dirt into walls of dust, the dried plants into large tumbleweeds that fly by. When it hasn’t rained in 200 days - the ground feels desperate, life distressed. This is a land without water.
I search the skies during monsoon season for the faintest smear of cloud meaning rain, my nose seeks the smell of a wet creosote bush. I am embodied longing. What might embodied longing for God look like? The poet tells us they are an embodied logning a searching, a deep soul thirst, a whole body longing. To search and see with our eyes in the sanctuary of earth and nature around us. It is lifting hands in prayer, opening our mouths to speak of God’s majesty, allowing our minds space to meditate on God’s goodness. Acknowledging our own humanity, clinging to Love and allowing Love to hold us.
Imagine you’re the writer of these words, the composer of the poem - and read it through again. Perhaps even take a moment and write out one or two of the verses that stands out to you. Next circle the words that draw you in. Choose one and meditate with God on that word. Perhaps you write down other words or draw images you associate with that one word or phrase. Is there an invitation or an offering in the word or images you’ve written down? Rest with God in gratitude for whatever has come forth.
God of poets
And of longings,
God of sanctuary
And shadowy nights,
My lips praise you,
My arms, legs and body long
To praise you.
Let my longings be ever present,
My songs of praise endless,
My thoughts burning for You,
Always resting in Your arms.
About the Author
Sheli Sloterbeek is a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, spiritual director, yoga instructor, retreat leader and most especially, beloved child of God. She is honored to be a companion of others as they discover God in their everyday life through the ministry of spiritual direction, either one-on-one, in a group, or making space through workshops and retreats. Sheli’s passion is for the “whole” person – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically – to be alive and live fully with God. www.aslowjourney.com IG:@aslowjourney