If I am honest, I had a great retreat, but it – in true retreat form – it stripped me of my defenses. As a result, since I have returned, I feel like I am living at the intersection of ennui and acedia. No, I am not depressed, I know what that feels like and I am not there. Will I go there? Perhaps, but I am not worried. However, I will say that the corner at which I stand offers a view of that state!
Where I am now is a necessary place, however. I am reminded what it is like to depart from one spot, and to not yet have arrived at the next. It all has a vaguely Lenten quality to it, despite being in a different liturgical season. The heart has a hard time following a specific calendar.
God makes good use of this time if we pay attention. I heard that this morning when I read the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah. What happens if we do not listen deeply to our God who longs to be close with us?
Today God asks Jeremiah to get a new loincloth, and to not put it in water (more about that in a minute), but directs him to wear it. Jeremiah complies. Then God tells Jeremiah to hide the loincloth in a rock, which he does. Ultimately when directed back to the rock, Jeremiah finds the loincloth rotted, which God then compares to his people, Israel.
The rotting is not the worst thing, is it? It is what we do with it that matters. I don’t think that I am “rotting” by the way, although others might disagree! Aren’t we all called to put on new self, and more than once in our lives? The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a call to transformation. This is the work of a lifetime, not a one-time event. That three word saying comes to mind – change or die!
Yet change is the most difficult thing, isn’t it? Perhaps a call to change is at the heart of my state of being? Of course it is! What is God asking of me? What is God asking any of us? And whether we look at Jeremiah, or Jesus, or to pretty much anyone else in Scripture, change is the one constant request of God to God’s people. All I can do right now is to try to be still, functioning the best that I can, and try to be attentive – and obedient.
All of which is easier said than done…
Regarding putting the loincloth in water, this struck me powerfully today. It reminded me that to be baptized is to be baptized into death with Christ so that we might rise with Christ. This is deeply sacramental and it is about the sacramental call to a common life in the Lord Jesus. If we do not take that plunge and come out the other side, what happens? We are like some individual little cloth, tucked away safely in the notch of the rock, rotting away. Perhaps this is a stretch of a thought, but it is on my mind.