On my silent retreat two weeks ago, I had an idea for a ritual to help me focus during my time with God. On a small table in the corner of the living room, facing away from whatever mess, a candle stands waiting. Before I start praying, I light the candle. To end my quiet time, I have to choose to blow out the candle. It’s just enough of a pause to check if ‘our’ time is done that I can usually override the random impulses I get to jump up and clean the house (or water a plant, or do a pedicure).
Two nights ago I read Lamentations. It made me want to learn Hebrew so I could really ‘get it’. It’s a five-section poem that Jeremiah wrote about Jerusalem’s defeat. Each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the third chapter has three sections in it. The poem is an outpouring of grief with hope embedded in its center, yet the form of the poetry is strict and mathematical. I love that paradox.
Because of that reading, I found myself this morning thanking God for His passionate love. Because he loves passionately, he gets angry, he gets hurt and jealous, he dances around his love, he laughs, he sits in silence, he embraces, he weeps, he covers, he delights. It’s the WHOLE package. I realized that a chunk of the theology in American churches is because we are uncomfortable with certain emotions. We think it’s bad to express anger; therefore God would never do something so tacky. We are uncomfortable with big, messy, passionate living; therefore God must also be contained and polite. I was so glad and thankful that he doesn’t fit our box. Instead he calls us to come outside and learn again to play and to love him as passionately as he loves us.