“Like a dry, weary land without water” is the self description of the psalmist longing for God. (Psalm 63) I dunno about you, but I’ve been and seen in others many a dry and weary land without water. Longing that echoes from this arid and exhausted place is a soul’s cry from its poverty.
Lent often reminds us of deserts, of dryness, of being like an empty bowl, of our poverty. We are told that poverty is blessed. And in previous posts (Ashes and Fire and Desert as Destination) we explored a bit of this. Knowing our contingency, our limits, our emptiness, our littleness is also a way of knowing and experiencing how deeply we are loved and how compassionately we are embraced. As Clare of Assisi describes to Agnes of Prague… we relate to him “in Whose embrace we are already caught up.”
Still, the saints who have journeyed before us – other friends of God and prophets, have experienced the ache of the cries which echo from this place. Mary MacKillop cries, “Sometimes I almost scream with fright” and also counsels, “do not let your troubles disturb your trust in God”. Catherine Laboure would tell us to “come to the foot of the altar”; Julian of Norwich assure us that “all will be well”; Jane de Chantal advise, “At a time of such radical change, it is impossible for nature not to be upset… this is why I think that you could not do better than to avoid all introspection as far as possible… Just gaze at God.. you will find in Him all you need.”
In desert, dry, weighty and weary times it seems it is not our calculations and figurings that will effect any change in our situation. Being who we are in that moment without great flapping about it – just gazing at God – and waiting – with a desire to be confident, whether one feels it or not – this is what is advised.
These words of Bonaventure seem an apt last word from an elder brother-saint-friend:
You soul devoted to God,
whoever you are,
with living desire
to this Fountain of life and light
and with the innermost power of your heart
cry out to Him.
Run! Do not delay. That is the best and most secure course. But run to God with whatever your heart holds – words or wordless, emotions or drained. Be there. And cry out with all you are.
As the psalmist tells us “For your love is better than life” (also Psalm 63).
Our seasons of soul-full aching cries bind us, as we actually are (not as we wish we were!), to the One who is our best refuge and strength, even (perhaps especially) in the midst of our dryness or darkness or terrors. Perhaps we can find in the journey of Jesus and our community of saints the same moments as we draw closer to Holy Week. All of them, and all of us, cry out from where we are. The cries are not the end… the embrace in which we are caught up is.
And so, with the psalmist, from where we are we too might pray, “My lips shall speak your praise… my mouth shall praise you with joy.”