“Sometimes you should speak to your soul, not just listen to it.”– Dr. Ingrid Davis
Prayer is like writing. Sometimes you stare at a blank wall, a blank screen, a blank page for awhile. Thinking you are not yet praying, not yet thinking, not yet writing.
But under just a little bit of skin, your blood is pumping life into your body. Your lungs have inhaled, exhaled six or a hundred or a quadrillion times since you put yourself in this location. Mind searching for the words, spirit longing for understanding and to be understood, body pumping, breathing… alive.
Something is happening. Don’t loose sight of that.
She was distressed. A young intern, staying with me and my new housemate for her first few days in the Middle East, passed by an open door on our second story to see the team leader she had just met… crying. In the middle of the night. On her birthday.
The other housemate was already there, having come to check on me. Earlier in the evening, the group had gathered around me, post-chocolate-peanut-butter-cheesecake, to close the day’s celebration with prayers of blessing.
But when the second person started to pray about dreams and expectations for the year ahead, my soul started to quiver. Soon shoulders shook, and tears dropped onto the table. I drew my breath quietly– perhaps, I thought, though the group had drawn close, with eyes shut they would not notice me crying.
Sniffles undid that. They offered a Kleenex and continued, and I did also. Sheltered in the kitchen of my second-story house, filled with home-cooked food, encircled by loving friends, I wept over the tentativeness in which every hope, but One, seemed to be shrouded.
After the last “amen,” they accepted my pink eyes and polite thanks, and went home.
Except, of course, for the intern, and my housemate. She came to my bedroom door 45 minutes later to ask, “How are you?”
Tears again. A form of answer.
The intern walked by and glimpsed this scene. She came back, hugged, and walked out again.
O Soul, you asked, Why didn’t I shut the door? And remembered, In the basement, no one came by the door– I did not have to be vulnerable. Nostalgic; yet knowing that the vulnerability of the second story is a particularly good place for you to be when you don’t want to be there.
I told the housemate who asked that, while the year had left me with much to celebrate, and drawn me closer to that Hope in One, I had also been bruised until tender from change and loss. So I was afraid to hope for anything beyond His love, even though I had read it is capable of casting out every category of fear.
Why are you so downcast, my Soul?
Scattered. Small parts of a people group spread over a big world. Who would care if they flourished or floundered? Who would they be known by?
I had not noticed this fear before in the Babel story, even though I had heard it since childhood. My Sunday School memory was simply of a post-flood, prideful people’s attempt to touch heaven with a physical tower. Consequentially, languages were confused. (I would come to grieve this result, as I wrestled with Southeast Asian languages and later Arabic, quite personally.)
But at the international gathering that I attended this summer, Egyptian leader Ann Zaki drew my attention to the text: “Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Let’s stay together. Let’s build a tower and the whole earth will see it. We are going to have identity, we are going to have companionship, and we are going to have protection.
But they had been given a directive to spread out. Cravings of the soul to stay in one place, and to make security for themselves, had prompted them to say “no” to God’s plan for them to go and fill the earth. They had refused to trust Him, to find refuge in Him; they would build their own tower.
As Ann Zaki spoke on the passage, I knew my soul needed to listen.
I needed to acknowledge the tools in my hands. I had attempted to construct a safe tower, and felt pierced by a sword every time there was a scattering. It’s time to lay down your arms, to go and let others go. Be empty-handed and have expectation for protection, companionship, and identity, to come. Not from what you’ve constructed… but from your Father.
Sometimes the things I hope for are like Lazarus. Like his sisters, I contact the Son, confidently, to tell Him what I need Him to do.
Sometimes He lets death approach for awhile.
Sometimes I am Mary, staying a distance away when Jesus approaches, then weeping at His feet. My soul says to Him, If you had been here, hope would be fulfilled, instead of dead.
Sometimes I am Martha, coming to Jesus and weeping the same words, but adding, “Even now… I know You are Life and Hope.”
Jesus wept with the sisters. And then…
But that’s a second story.
So this is what I’m saying to my soul these recent days:
Hoping for the small things is all right. Because even if they don’t happen, I know Hope and Life.
Scattering is all right. Because refuge is not something I can build with my own hands– I refuse false refuge, and I go with the One who is Himself my Tower.
Moments of fear and being downcast come all right. But I have perfect love, even when they come.
The future is a blank page. This, too, is all right. Because He is up to something… even now. And so I breathe deeply, singing with favorites Jonathan David & Melissa Helser:
“Your faithfulness will never let me down
I’m confident I’ll see Your goodness now.”
—Catch the Wind, new on “Beautiful Surrender”