My friend Joni recently sent me a prayer. It’s a beautiful prayer, a poem really, reflecting things I have been thinking through and experiencing. Clearly Joni understands me and can empathize. It is good to have such friends.
Circle me, Lord. These words begin three stanzas of Joni’s prayer for me. Her words made me think of old western movies in which pioneers cross the frontier, a vast, uncharted and unfamiliar wilderness. The pioneers were vulnerable to attack of all kinds – other humans, strong storms, snake bite, starvation, accidents, stampedes. The iconic image from western movies is the wagon circle. If pioneers circled their wagons, they were protected from external threats. Inside the circle, they fellowshipped. No western is complete without a scene where a few women and men sit around a campfire in the middle of a wagon circle and share their stories, offer encouragement and comfort for the arduous journey.
Last week I took a trip to Boston to visit my friend Karen. I drove eight hours through a Nor’easter with pounding rain and winds so high they pushed my little car toward the shoulder and then back toward the median. When it got dark, it was hard to see lines on the wet road. After eight tense hours I reached Karen’s house knotted and exhausted. I stood in the rain on her back porch with my bags hanging off my shoulders and wrists. I rang the bell and Karen came running out of the living room into the kitchen. I could see her smiling through the glass door. She opened the door and then her arms. I dropped my bags, stepped out of the rain and into her hug. Karen is one of the best huggers I know. When her arms come around you they say something. Her embrace said, “Welcome. I’m glad you are here. I love you.”
If you read my last post, you know that life has been challenging lately. I’m burned out and with that come tiredness and mood swings. I’ve had lots of difficult conversations and there have been more tears shed than I would like. What usually restores me for a week sometimes only helps for an hour or two. I’m craving quiet, peaceful sleep, laughter, a cuddle with my nieces, worship and most of all the nourishment of Communion. Three weeks ago, in a meeting with a spiritual director, I was asked what I thought God’s message was to me in this wilderness. I didn’t know the answer then. I do now. Sometimes a message is action, not words.
I’m circled by the love of God. It’s a feeling as real and wholesome as the bread and wine that I eat and drink each Sunday. God’s arms are wide for me as he welcomes me in from the storm. I drop my baggage and walk into his embrace. God wraps me in his arms, gentle and firm, and protects me from harm. God sits across from me, hears my story, shares his own and offers me comfort. Don’t think this is metaphorical.
Jesus circles me along a dangerous and draining journey. God’s embrace proves his words – I am the bread of life. You will never hunger or thirst. I will never drive you away. I will not lose you.
My thanks to so many of you who have circled me – Joni, Karen, Kim, Pam, Brandon, Holly, Ashley, Stephanie, Amber, Eldon, Jen, Amy and Doug.