Friday, August 5, 2022

Musings from a Parched Land

The red dirt was hard, compact, baked. Endless days stretched by as a heat wave crawled over the land. Wildfires sparked, garden plants shriveled, and the sparse patches of grass in our yard became brown and brittle. Large cracks and crevices split open our yard as the earth cried out for water, for moisture, for reprieve. 

And I thought of the psalmist's cry; words that I have prayed countless times as I've held my taped-together breviary: 

"O God, you are my God, for you I long; 

for you my soul is thirsting

My body pines for you 

like a dry, weary land without water..."

A few years ago, as I joined in the procession of people walking to receive the Eucharist at Mass, these words sprung up in my heart. I've continued to pray them often while in the line for Communion. 

My body pines for you/like a dry, weary land without water.

Each evening, we gather as a family to pray Night Prayer, from the Liturgy of the Hours. And there, tucked in Psalm 143, the image rises yet again: 

"Like a parched land my soul thirsts for you."

Living in a suburban area in a developed country, with housing, transportation, and food, I do not often grasp certain needs that, say, nomadic tribes in ancient history did. I do not often grasp the daily reality of numerous people today, in many parts of the world: the reality of ramshackle housing (if any), scarce and plain food (if any), minimal clean drinking water (if any). Separated from agriculture, my life is not as nearly intertwined with the land as that of a chicken farmer I recently met. 

Although I cannot easily comprehend the deep need and longing inherent in the image of a parched land, I still find it powerful and important to contemplate. As my bare feet stepped across the hot, crunchy grass just a couple weeks ago, the intensity of image struck me. 

What is it like for my soul to thirst for God in this way?

What is it like for my body to pine for God like this? 

I think of the need that my spirit has to enter into prayer with God, even if those moments are not as lengthy or abundant as I would hope. I think of the need that my body has to bow in worship before God; to kneel or prostrate myself before our Eucharistic Lord, to turn my body to Him in prayer. 

Even after weeks, months, and years of pondering this image and these questions, I have no great spiritual insights to offer. Yet, I don't think this is a bad thing necessarily. I've noticed that in our culture, we often push for quick answers and fast insights, speedy results and constant production. How often do we simply sit and think? 

So, in the spirit of slowing down, of taking the long and winding path, I invite you to sit with me and ponder these words of Scripture. What is God saying to us through the cry of the psalmist? How can we grow in our longing for God? Can we truly say--with our words, hearts, and lives--that we hunger and thirst for righteousness? (cf. Matt 5:6)

When rain finally poured forth from the sky, we watched in awe. We danced, we splashed our hands and faces in the raindrops, and we rejoiced. If this is our response to the weather, how much more should we rejoice in the goodness of God and the graces that he pours forth?