For years now we have set on our annual Lenten journey. Each year, we start out with hopes of remaining faithful. Each year it is our intention to be disciplined and after these forty days we hope to gain new wisdom and insights. And yet, and yet so often our practice falls short. Speaking for myself, part of my problem might be that I am trying to put new wine into old wine skins. I’m setting out doing what I’ve always done. “Same song, 51st verse.” (give or take a verse or two) This Lenten journey may we consider risking something new and seek not the familiar path. May we look to follow one that is not already marked with footprints – ours or someone else’s. This year, may we take heart and follow a new path. We are meant to be out, away from what is familiar, what is practiced, what is routine. We are meant to enter into a new space.
So often for me when I able to get away, to go on a trip away from home, away from work I have more time to think. Less conversations, allow for more interior work. So often when I’m out and away I realize how very grateful I am. “Absence making the heart grow fonder” and all. So often I re-member how very thankful I am for this life that I have been given. I realize how grateful I am for my family, my friends, my home. And soon as I reflect upon this, I realize how rarely I speak about that.
The words from Psalm 20 speak about that. The writer talks about being in the midst of the congregation, being with like-spirited sojourners. Probably the psalm’s most powerful line is from verse 24, the one that reminds us that God listens for us and listens to us. We hear, “For God did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; did not hide God’s face from me, but heard when I cried out.” For this and so much more, I give thanks.
Psalm 22 is perhaps known best as Jesus’ psalm. It was these words he prayed when he was close to his death. These words of angst that have sounded down the centuries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And it is important for us to remember that these are the beginning words of this prayer, not the ending words. This psalm speaks to the wilderness journey, the faith journey of moving from the desperate pain of our beginning place to a place of belonging and even proclamation. How is this possible? How is it possible for you and for me?
Maybe this question will be the pebble in my shoe as I continue on these days wandering through the wilderness. Can my faith move from the painful places that too frequently capture my spirit? Can it move to a place of proclamation and deliverance? I’ve witnessed this kind of faith all through my life. I saw it in the faces of the older folks who sang all the hymns by heart in the fellowship hall in the Methodist Church growing up, I’ve seen it at bedsides of folks who were nearing death, and now I sense it walking the hallways of CHOA most every day.
Ever walked with a pebble in your shoe? At first it's irritating, aggravating. A faithful pebble can be one that helps us shift our stride a little bit. A faithful pebble can move us from what has always been to a place to that calls us yet to be.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan (now a freshman at Guilford College) and Sam at sophomore at DHS in Decatur, GA.