What Are You Cast Down?

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.When shall I come and behold the face of God? Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42, portions)

During my doctoral program many years ago, I took a two-week retreat with a wise spiritual writer named Dallas Willard. While I was there, at a beautiful retreat center in the hills above Pasadena, I experienced some of the most powerful silent moments in my life. I walked in the quiet stillness each day, watching the hills alive with spring wildflowers, nodding to the retreatants while honoring their need for solitude. I journaled and prayed and read and simply soaked in the presence of God. This Scripture passage spoke to me then, and it speaks deeply to my soul during these days. I have to confess that there have been many days during this pandemic when life seemed good and hopeful and I was able to hold on to the perspective that this time will pass, but there are also days when I cling to God for strength, knowing that my soul is cast down, but God’s steadfast love is literally holding me up.

I still have the journal from that time and every so often, I return to it to remember. While we listened to our retreat leader share his lifetime of grace, I picked up some nuggets of wisdom that I am still pondering. Just this week, I re-read parts of that journal and I ran across something he said that I am only beginning to understand this many years later: “I must be willing to be uncomfortable for a while if I want to be released from whatever it is that has bound me.”

How powerfully true that is in these days. There is much that makes me uncomfortable – whether it is learning about injustice, or witnessing the pain and suffering of those going through difficult days, or watching my mother navigate this chapter of her life, or feeling the sadness of not being able to fix any of those things. Still I cling to a God who understands my discomfort, who walks with me, who unbinds me when I release all I cannot control into God’s strong hands. That is my hope, that is my peace.

Rev. Dr. Deb Kaiser-Cross
Minister for Congregational Care

For the light of hope sparked in people walking through dark days:
Lord, our longing is to be quenched in the dry deserts of life, as you fill us to overflowing with what we need. There are deep places yet to be discovered as our souls meet the depths of your love. Depths and heights are no secret to you, O God. Help us to be open to your sweeping, carving, molding, creating hand as you take our discomfort and teach us of the power of your presence moment by moment. In the ways of Jesus. Amen.

Photo credit: Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing. St. Ann’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Kennebunkport, ME, May 2019