I find I am very still during this Lenten season, as if my heart wants to wait and my soul wants to become fully open to something holier than my normal days. Like many people, I am conditioned to productivity. Sometimes I believe I’m fixated on work — mundane work, hard work, busywork, creative work. Any kind of work that produces something tangible.
All the while, I wonder why I am not more devoted to soul work, for that is the kind of work that transforms me and creates a tender space in me. Soul work is much harder than “regular” work, because it requires a Lenten kind of spirituality. For me, soul work calls me to find silent spaces, to breathe slowly and deeply, to reflect, to contemplate, to pray, to hear music, to listen to the sighs of my soul and to find within myself that gentle, tender place that longs for the brush of Spirit wings.
Soul work brings me to holy places and sacred moments. During Lent, I usually hear the call for penitence and forgiveness. I hear God’s voice calling out to me, “ . . .return to me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12) Over many Lenten seasons, I have heard, again and again, a similar call.
You will seek me and find me
when you search for me with all your heart.
It sounds hard — these calls to seek, search, find, return — and I’m not too sure I can do “hard” right now. Standing here, in the center of this Lent, I just want to say, “Not this time, God. I’m tired.” Instead of working on returning to God, this Lent I am working through serious health concerns that include being infused with massive steroid medications meant to further weaken my immune system. It seems that my body’s autoimmune response is trying to reject the kidney I received on November 12, 2019.
My brother is still recovering from an extremely dangerous case of Covid-19 that was literally life-threatening. Like so many others, I am continuing to struggle through the pandemic and all the losses it has brought. The truth is that all of it together has depleted my energy.
At this point, as I think of returning to God with all my heart, I respond with, “I can’t. I’m too exhausted to find the way back, God. The search for you is just too complicated.” Then all of a sudden in the long, dark hours before dawn on my third night without sleep, I remember that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning . . . ” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Sometimes, any of us can become deep-down weary. Life can be hard. Circumstances might be changing around us, or we might find ourselves facing debilitating challenges we never saw coming. Perhaps we’re walking through a difficult illness or a dark season, and no matter how much we’ve prayed, the difficulty seems to linger on for far too long. Like in these days. Right now in fact, God reminds us of the tender mercy that still brings peace to our hearts in seasons like this one. Mercies that never end, new every morning — a message written for God’s people when times were very difficult. Like our times, now!
God’s tender mercies really do hold us close as we face long days and hard nights. So just maybe we would do well during this Lenten season to remember, not God’s call to us to return, but rather the tenderness of Jesus as he waits for our weary souls and calls us to come home.
Thanks be to God.
FOR YOUR MOMENTS OF LENTEN REFLECTION: Sit quietly and let your soul rest for a few moments. Breathe slowly and deeply, releasing from within you what you need to let go of. Breathe in the tenderness that heals your soul and breathe out your exhaustion.
Imagine that Jesus is watching for you, waiting for you. Imagine that you do not have to do anything, but that Jesus is tenderly calling out to you, “Come home, my beloved child. I’ve been waiting. If you have become too weary on this journey, just come home.”
For so many years, I listened and sang this beautiful hymn without really understanding much about its message: “Ye who are weary, come home.” I think I get it now.
“Softly and Tenderly”
Lyrics and Music: Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909)
Arranged by Bill Pursell
Conducted by Buryl Red
Concertmaster: Sheldon Kurland
Background vocal: Cynthia Clawson