Early this week I sorted through a file box, trying to organize various pieces of paperwork that I don't yet trust to digital. In the file box is one slim folder that holds a few memories - "Personal Mementos" is scrawled on the curling tab of the manila folder. Inside this folder is a print out of an email sent to me in 2000 by a woman who I had worked with on a summer missions project. That this scrap of paper has survived three cross-country moves is a testament to why it is in a battered "memento" folder.
The email begins with an epigraph.
"But the God that sometimes can't be found will wrap Himself around you. So lay down, sister, lay down." - B. NormanThe internet tells me that these words are from the song "Rita" by Bebo Norman - It's a sad song, about the death of a friend. I don't think I ever knew that before this week. I just knew that this week, as they did 14 years ago, those words filled my soul in some way that made me take a deep, cleansing, breath.
Those words have resonated through my head countless times in the past 14 years. If not the words themselves, then the simple truth of them has been there even when I couldn't remember them exactly or where I heard them first.
This is the beauty of poetry to me - that words become life - take on shape and have meaning. It is not just a sentence - it is imbued with something more. The poet (or songwriter) has chosen words carefully, caring about more than syntax. .
In the many years since those words first appeared on a computer screen and prompted me to hit print - one constant thing about God in my life is that even when he can't be found (or, frankly, when I didn't want to find him) - that somehow he was wrapped around me. There was a thread tangled and wrapped somewhere around my wrist, or an ankle, or a tiny corner of my soul, sometimes tugging with force, sometimes barely perceptible, but always there. I can remember describing the feeling as "God won't let go" in the midst of feeling like God could not be found. It is a paradox - but what in this faith is not?
For my Lenten practice - I have been journaling lament and this little phrase fits well into this experience. Lament is about sorrow and pain and loss - - things that if you spend enough time focusing on, your only recourse is to lay down, lay down. And the truth of these words written into my soul 14 years ago prove true again - that I find God wrapped around me. I'm pretty new to observing anything liturgical like Lent. I've never done an Ash Wednesday service - never had the cross smudged onto my forehead - but this year I am seeing anew that God who wraps himself around me, giving beauty for ashes I didn't even know I still carried around. Strengthening areas that are too-often governed by fear. Putting firm foundation under the my feet and lighting a path. It is not what I expected from my Lenten journey of lament. I think I expected more sadness. But I am finding that when I mourn and dare to question God about the pain and brokenness in this world, in my life, that I find the God who wraps himself around me.