Let the psalmist’s words of praise and joy wash over you. Give thanks to God, to the rock of our salvation, for God’s presence, faithfulness, and beautiful creation! Recall a moment when you were startled by life’s goodness, when you witnessed a sunrise, rainbow, or moonrise with full attention and delight, or when you fell into bed at night content and happy. Relish that memory as a stage of your journey—no matter how brief—that was easy and joyful. This memory can serve as a touchstone for future stages that will require a reminder of God’s faithfulness and a prompt to trust and look forward with hope.
In my late thirties, I entered a stage of deep depression on my journey. I feared that the crushing sadness and heaviness of every step would never end. I did everything I knew to do to find my way out of that wilderness. I returned to spiritual practices that I had neglected and sought therapy and medication. In time, regular worship and communion, journaling, and prayer led me to remember and believe in God’s unconditional love. In the dark cocoon of depression, my ego and accomplishments dissolved and I saw myself as a beloved child of God, nothing more and nothing less. I felt like I grew wings as I came to know and claim my belovedness. To mark my rebirth, I had three small butterflies tattooed onto the inside of my left wrist. They are a daily reminder of the suffering that I endured, which produced character that led me to hope again. They are my response to the psalmist’s warning not to let my heart harden, not to forget the love of God available to me in every moment.
We are together, people of God, sheep in God’s pasture, tempted to go astray, longing for rest. But we can offer our stories of hope and fulfillment of joy to others still wandering in the wilderness.
God of creation, open our eyes to see beauty and wonder that keep our hearts soft and open, whether the journey is easy or difficult. Amen.
Three of the passages this week connect water and faith. In Exodus and the psalm, we read about the Israelites grumbling in the desert. Although they have seen God’s mighty deeds in Egypt, they have begun to question God’s provision for them. God provides water through Moses, but the place is remembered (and named) as a site where the faith of the people fails. In John, however, a place to draw water becomes a site of salvation for the Samaritan woman and eventually for the people in her village through her faith. The reading in Romans goes a different direction. Paul emphasizes the importance of faith in the face of trials and the fact that God brings salvation through Christ when fallen humanity has no other hope.
Read Exodus 17:1-7. How do your memories of God’s provision sustain you through tough stages of your spiritual journey?
Read Psalm 95. What object, image, or memory serves for you as a symbol of God’s faithfulness?
Read Romans 5:1-11. How have you found hope in stages of life when God is forming your character through suffering and endurance?
Read John 4:5-42. When has letting go of your expectations or rules allowed God to work freely in your life or in the lives of others around you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.