June 13, 2012

Help Thou My Lack of Trust

I felt agitated in our silent Meeting for Worship this morning. My mind kept going to the ways in which I am not satisfied in my life, the mistakes I have made, and the anxiety I can feel about “getting it right.” As I sat with the agitation – I have learned that it is not helpful to try to tame it or replace it with more comfortable feelings, like peacefulness or calm – I became aware of the presence of Jesus.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Although I like Jesus a lot, and feel that he is definitely my Friend, it has been quite some time since he stepped into the picture without being asked. But there he was, standing before me in Spirit, inviting my spirit to lean on him.

As Jesus is standing there before me, I inwardly hear the words of an ancient hymn that is in our Quaker hymnal, Worship in Song, though I’ve never heard anyone sing this hymn in a Meeting for Worship or a choral event. It is set to a familiar tune by Thomas Tallis, circa 1567:
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, worn and sad;
La-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la,
And he has made me glad.
I cannot remember the second-to-last line! The verse is going through my head, over and over again, with a missing la-la-la line, one that I know is critical to the meaning of the song. I work with it, trying to remember. I sing the song inwardly several times, hoping that my associative memory will click in and supply the missing words. No luck. I think of walking over to the stack of hymnals and bringing one back to my chair. I will have to cross the entire width of the meeting room, however, which could be somewhat disturbing to the other worshippers. Our worship dog, Dalva, is able to be still and silent during worship, even during ministry. But if I were to rise and walk across the meeting room, I think, she might think it is the end of worship and bound toward me for her after-worship hug. And that would disturb the other Friends present even more. I think of all sorts of excuses to not get the hymnal. I stay in my seat.

When I come home, I look up the hymn. The missing line is “I found in him a resting place.” It is one that I have rememorized countless times, but always, if I haven’t thought of or sung the song in awhile, I forget that particular line. Memory is a chronic issue for me. But even so, I can remember the rest of the verse. Why does this particular line continue to elude me?
I think it is because that line, of all the lines in the verse, evokes for me the inward experience of actually consenting to rest in Jesus. The rest of the verse is either an invitation from him or the happy outcome at the end of the story. But the actual, uncomfortable, inward act of making myself vulnerable, of laying my head down, of consenting to rest in Jesus – that is the sticking point for this stiff-necked, independent, “don’t tell me what to do,” theologically multilingual Friend.

Today Jesus came to me. Today he invited me to rest in him. Nothing more. He didn’t demand that I give up my connection to Mother Earth. He didn’t ask that I believe that he, and only he, is the Son of God. He didn’t require that I believe every word of the New International Version of the Bible. He didn’t require that I treat my inward experiences of Spirit and spirits with suspicion.
He simply invited me to rest. Period. And he used my poor memory to help me remember that it is only my consent that is needed to experience the happy outcome of resting in him. Jesus is pretty brilliant.

At this moment I cannot, with a whole heart, consent to his invitation to rest in him. But I can say that I am willing to be willing. I can say that I want to be able to lean into him in this way. Like the father of the epileptic boy in the Gospel of Mark, I pray, “Help thou my lack of trust.”

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