I once read where the poet and Anglican priest, George Herbert, was so dedicated to prayer that he would perform the Daily Office in the church... whether anyone was there with him or not. And that's a little how I felt this morning when I found that I was alone in the chapel for our Morning Prayer service. This is not the first time this has happened. I could have bagged it and gone home, but I stayed on.... just in case. And I read the service to mark today as the Presentation of Jesus at the temple. Hey, I was present.
Or was I?
That was the question for me as I went through Psalm 42 which seemed to be like staring into a mirror as I read it aloud:
1 As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
so longs my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, *
while all day long they say to me,
"Where now is your God?"
4 I pour out my soul when I think on these things; *
how I went with the multitude and led them into the
house of God,
5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, *
among those who keep holy-day.
6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?
7 Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
I was feeling heavy in my soul, and I was struggling to focus. It is one thing for me to go through the ritual of the morning daily office in the privacy of my home. But the Wednesdays have been a time to gather with others... sometimes as many as ten others... to share a sacred space. Now, here I was alone in this chapel with the enormous Corpus Christi. There was no escaping it. I felt alone.
Then there was the repeated mantra, "Put your trust in God..." This has been the biggest test for me lately. Do I trust God completely? On some days, I do. At other times I wonder if I've gone off my rocker. The days when I'm "there" on the trust issue are generally good ones. I can keep a steady handle on things in my life and very little can knock me off center. Those are the days when I think I'm most "there" for my clients, my friends and my family. It's when I can't sense that trust that I find myself wrestling with that feeling of "Why the hell did I bother waking up this morning?" And that's where my mind had gone as I read through Psalm 42.
"Where now is your God?" That is a taunt that actually came up in a nightmare that I had a few years ago. I was facing a tempter in this nightmare...
I found myself searching, both internally and externally, for God. The tempter had wanted to know where my God was, and I was determined now to find God. As I searched the circle and the scene beyond it with my eyes, and as I breathed deeply to seek God within, I found myself becoming calmer and realizing that even in this moment of desperation, God was still there for me. All I needed to do was look, find and tap into this powerful source of love and good. The more I could trust in this truth, the calmer I would become. And in the calm of being centered, I could defeat this demon.
Just as with this nightmare from 2008, the secret to overcoming the doubts raised by the question, "Where now is your God?" came later in the day for me as I could have some time of quiet away from the chapel to reflect and seek the God source within me. Once I went to that place... my morning angst fell by the wayside. Which leads me back to the "trust" piece. If I know it works, why do I find it difficult at times to remember it?