21 Feb Kleenex & Tea & Echoes of Grace
I have been sick. I’ve had “the crud” which is my very technical, medical term for a virus that swooped in and knocked me completely flat. I missed an entire week of work. I came home from church one Sunday, went to bed, and did not so much as put one foot in a car until a week later when I went back to church for the Sunday service. I stayed horizontal for so many days in a row that my joints were aching, but I did not have the energy to do anything about it.
Like a lot of “type A” personalities, at first my physical pain was exacerbated by the additional pressure I felt by missing work. This is a very busy time with Lent quickly approaching. There is the Ash Wednesday service to plan and sermons to write for my Lenten series on the Apostle Peter. I am also writing a lengthy grant proposal with a looming deadline, and as the legal guardian for someone who is disabled, I have several legal and financial reports due soon as well. I had already missed a week of work due to my grandmother’s death. I really couldn’t afford another one without getting so far behind that it would create significant stress for weeks to come. Because I am someone who works best when I’m working ahead rather than from behind, this was no small prospect. I could feel the emotional tension mounting as surely as I could feel the elephant that has been rather rudely sitting on my chest, refusing to budge.
Embedded in the midst of this tension was the still, small whisper of an invitation from God. What if I simply let go and trusted? Let go of being angry with my sick body. Let go of trying to control what was uncontrollable. Let go of putting pressure on myself to “get over it.” What if I surrendered to my body’s need for rest and healing? What might happen if I listened and honored my body’s desire for wellness?
Listening is the crux of so many spiritual practices. Listening for the Spirit in prayer. Listening for the voice of God in community. Listening for the intuitive whispers of our own hearts. Listening for felt needs beneath the words we hear. Listening for echoes of grace and hope even in difficult circumstances. Listening is hard work and it has become harder than ever with the deafening bombardment of noise that is an inescapable fact of contemporary life. I can’t even fill up my gas tank anymore without the jarring, nagging, incessant sound of advertisements being hurled at me. It’s no wonder focused, caring, uninterrupted listening has become so rare.
Last week, spending most of each day curled up under not one but two blankets, with a book in one hand and hot tea in the other, I had time to listen. The reading and listening were interspersed with a lot of naps, and as I rested, reflected, prayed, and journaled, I heard again God’s timeless message: “Peace, child. Do not fret, but trust. I am your grace, and I am sufficient for everything you need. Rest, trust, relax. All is well, and all shall be well.” And with that calm assurance, I chose to forego “working from home” and simply to allow my tired, sick body the time it needed to get better. The trick of course, as I have made my way back to work this week, is to still live and walk in the truth of God’s promise, continuing to listen, trust and pace myself rather than stress over what is before me to do. I want to do exactly that. I experienced the profound power of leaning on God and God, as always, proved to be entirely faithful. But, it’s hard to find that quiet center that allows me to stay in God’s presence. Maybe you share the same struggle. So, let’s try to encourage one another, shall we?