Saturday, March 18, 2006
When I felt my life slipping away, then, O Lord, I prayed to you, and in your holy Temple you heard me.
I like to start every day by getting up early, before all my boys. When I say early, I mean about 4:30. It sounds unbearable until you try it for a while and you find that early morning hour to be the most peaceful, and the most private time in a busy household. There are many days when Buster is just going to sleep at that hour, after spending the night doing homework, or whatever, on the computer. This little Mac is a hard worker! I am in the habit now of getting into my PJs right after the little boys are down, grabbing one of my books and some chocolate and reading in bed for about an hour (I skip this if I am really tired) and nodding off to sleep by 8:30 or 9. So getting up early is something that works for me.
I make my coffee, feed the cats and brush them (they insist on a little quality time too, after all), and find my comfy chair and my Bible for my treasured Quiet Time. I grew up as a pastor’s daughter, a pastor who taught Bible Study in small groups and in college fellowships and now teaches it in a seminary; so Quiet Time, time with Bible reading and prayer, is pretty much ingrained in my being. I have tried to be faithful with it since I was able to read at all, with scattered success. It used to be really difficult for me to keep up with it faithfully, as I would always get distracted, have other things to do, (like sleep or read other books), or just get lazy. But about 10 years ago I had a very difficult class when I was teaching first grade. I really wanted to walk away and never come back. I started spending more time in prayer every morning just to face going to work. By God’s grace I came to rely on the power and love and wisdom and energy that flows from our Creator. That year of struggle solidified my dependence on God’s strength, through daily prayer and Bible reading, and since then I have found it a rich banquet and I really look forward to it every day.
I used to choose different devotional books or Bible reading schedules every year. A couple of years ago The American Bible Society sent me a Bible reading schedule in the mail, and I really liked the way they laid it out. For the past couple of years I have stuck with that. I keep the paper copy in my Bible, and I downloaded the PDF from their website www.americanbible.org and put it on my Palm. I also have a Bible on my Palm so I can sit in my comfy chair with my coffee in one hand, the cat on my lap, and my Bible open on my Palm in the other hand, scrolling with my thumb. It is wonderful! You can also read the daily selection off the website, and you can have it emailed to you every morning if you want. I love the Internet!!
Today’s passage is from Jonah. We have been reading through the Old Testament prophets during Lent. The theme for March is “Believe in the Good News and pray for one another”, so each daily passage is a prayer from one of the prophets. When Jonah is on an ocean voyage he is thrown overboard during a terrible storm and sinks. Instead of drowning he is swallowed by a whale. Today we read his prayer from inside the whale.
From deep inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God: "In my distress, O Lord, I called to you, and you answered me. From deep in the world of the dead I cried for help, and you heard me. You threw me down into the depths, to the very bottom of the sea, where the waters were all around me, and all your mighty waves rolled over me. I thought I had been banished from your presence and would never see your holy Temple again. The water came over me and choked me; the sea covered me completely, and seaweed wrapped around my head. I went down to the very roots of the mountains, into the land whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, brought me back from the depths alive.
When he is most desperate and thinks he is dying, the worst thing is that he may be banished from God’s presence. Being cut off from the source of love is far worse than simply dying. The joy of being brought back from the depths alive is resounding. There is no greater feeling of relief and jubilation than to discover you really are loved and claimed and held by the power that will never let you go, no matter how deep you fall.
Reading this I was reminded of the book I read last week Young Man and the Sea. When he hooks the giant tuna he is pulled overboard and down under. He thinks he is dying and hears his mother’s voice. He blacks out but then miraculously finds himself waking up above the surface, gasping for breath. The tuna had risen to the surface again, giving him back his life. The description of what it feels like to be drowning in a cold sea is very vivid and helps me relate to Jonah’s prayer. I have never been drowning in the sea all alone, but I have felt that way, drowning in fear and anxiety and despair. This is a prayer I will come back to, when I need to be rescued and pulled out of that drowning. God’s love will never let us go.