What a difference a day makes.
It was a Monday that lived up to the stereotype. You know, one of those days when the bad news and the frustration are all just too much. I could not shake the fact that so much of our world and my life is not as it should be. Getting dressed almost felt beyond me. I had to make myself put one foot in front of the other. I felt inadequate and distracted and lonely and parched. Could I hear Spirit – Ruach – speak to me through my dusty, swirling thoughts? I prayed for a fresh breath – ruach – of life.
Then Tuesday, I picked up the book called Expansive and started reading. Five pages in, I was reminded that I am a person on a journey, a homo viator in the Latin, author A.J. Sherrill says. A pilgrim. And my thoughts went immediately to Psalm 84, which 13 years ago the Spirit planted in my spirit at a very sad and challenging time and said, “This is for you and your family. Keep walking.”
I looked at my journal, saw my prayer of the day before, and realized it had been answered – the Spirit did pierce though, loud and clear. And my heart was full, flooded with hope, even though all around nothing has changed.
Psalm 84 is about a pilgrimage, and tears, and dryness, and joy, and strength, and trust in the journey, because of course God travels with us as much as he welcomes us to our destination.
My Bible text-notes say that in Old Testament days, many pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for Holy Days apparently had to walk through a place called the Valley of Baca. Why is it important for us to know that detail? I think it’s in the meaning of the name. Baca literally means weeping. I also read that some scholars relate it to the name of a kind of tree that flourishes in dry places.
The name of the valley characterizes the “place” pilgrims must pass through on their way to gather and worship. As the pilgrims pass through, they somehow water this place, causing life to thrive. Weeping turns to joy. They “make it a spring. The rain also covers it with pools (blessings).” (Ps. 84:6) And the pilgrims come out the other side of the valley strong.
Our weeks are full of reasons to lament. Tragedy and injustice are happening in our community, our country, and our world too fast and furious to recount here. Many of us have experienced or continue to experience personal trauma of one kind or another. Clearly our hearts’ pilgrimage is taking us through the Valley of Baca. So yes, we have days of soul-sickness.
But that’s not the end of the journey. We travel with God, a homo viator caravan if you will, and as we go, the dry places we walk through, whether in our own spirits or our surroundings (Englewood?), will hopefully be watered and flourish because we have passed through.
We’re in it for the long haul, so we’ll keep walking.
My journey of transformation continues. So does yours. So does ours. Thank you, Spirit, for walking with us and watering us, from strength to strength.
This is a guest post from Carol Willis. She is an active and faithful part of The Sacred Grace Englewood and serves on the board of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce. Carol is the owner, designer, and creator at The Clapping Oak, an Englewood business handcrafting aprons with love from upcycled and new fabrics.