Jeremiah 15: 15-21 (NRSV)
O Lord, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
know that on your account I suffer insult.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.
I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
for you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail.
Therefore, thus says the Lord:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,
says the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
About three years ago I started having chest pains. Hoping it was just allergies I tried to ignore it. The real reason I went into denial was that at that particular moment I had no health insurance. I had retired, was close to getting on Medicare, had been healthy my whole life, exercised five days a week, had no family history of heart disease - in fact I had no marker for a bad heart. So I tried to ignore it. Almost two months later and after many more episodes of severe chest pains, my son took me to the ER. Turns out I needed by-pass surgery. At this point, very thankfully, I had health insurance; the bad news was the surgery couldn't be scheduled for 12 days. The doctor had told me to take it easy, that if I had a heart attack I would likely die. And to add stress to the whole sad, story I was never sure the insurance policy would pay for the surgery; I would be the first patient to have this operation performed robotically at this hospital and it cost a lot more. Indeed, the day before the surgery the hospital called to let me know the surgery was off, the insurance had been denied. The story ended well, here I am, I had the surgery the next day after all and I recovered quickly.
But those 12 days were something else. For the first time in my life I looked at the real possibility of dying - my dying. I didn't call God a "deceitful brook" but I was none too pleased. Of all times to have this happen, this brief interval between insurance coverage. I was deeply frightened for the first time in my life. A teacher of mine said that we don't fully spiritually mature unless we face our own death. As a Christian mystic, I try to live fully into the question, "Who am I?" Who was going to die? Who felt a victim? Who was the butt of this Holy joke? From the other side of the experience I can say I wouldn't trade a moment of it. The experience changed me, made me face places of fear in me I had not known were there. In the end and after much sorrow, I was able to surrender everything to God. As I went to sleep on the operating table my prayer was this: into Thy hands I commit my spirit.
I had made a journey I didn't know I needed to make. I have a new foundation of God with me, of the mystic's refrain that all shall be well. Not because I lived nor of the good outcome. It was because of the ordeal itself. The "ruthless" of Jeremiah's prayer, this supposed enemy, was the fear within me. And I was delivered from a darkness I hadn't known was there all the time.
Loving God, help us to be aware of your Love, your Beauty and your Truth always present in every moment. Help us to know that there is no where we can go where you are not. Help us to see the illusion of Life and the places of Ignorance within ourselves that need to be healed by your grace. Guide us all toward your Love that this world of form may be filled with compassion and courage and mercy. Amen..
is a retired Minister of Park Congregational Church and an active Spiritual Director