Shalom all, Shabbat is approaching. If you are Jewish or Torah-observant, I hope your table is lovely and your family or your guests are ready to meet with God at the dinner table. For my Christian friends who do not keep Shabbat, I pray your weekend is lovely as well.
I just came back from a writer’s retreat in Colorado. I made new friends and added a lot of insight for future writing projects and even for my synagogue sermons. The writers’ group was led by Serendipity House, producers of small group discussion materials for churches. Check them out at serendipityhouse.com. They are changing to a new paradigm, writing materials designed to foster spiritual transformation instead of just information.
Anyway, this Sabbath meditation is adapted from a writing exercise I did for Serendipity House. The session started with a video. The video panned an old warehouse in the city and moved inside to a dark room which the viewer slowly realizes is a dance studio. It is dark and depressing.
The staccato voice of an angry, old man shrieks out commands repetitively. The aged instructor berates his student, demanding more from him than he can give. The dancer is a well-muscled male who looks like a professional dancer, but he cannot please this maniacal instructor. Sweating and straining, he eventually falls to the floor exhausted. And as he lays there, the angry instructor gives up on him and leaves.
He sits for a few minutes, discouraged, knowing he lost his job for this show. Then the camera pans to a woman who has been watching the whole time. She too in an instructor. She kneels down to the floor where the dancer is. She lifts his dejected face to hers. She says, “Work with me.”
She gently turns his neck back and forth, loosening his shoulders. She takes his hands in her hands and begins leading his hands in the rhythm of the dance. Slowly they stand together and she leads him in the dance, so that he can copy her movements. He succeeds.
Many people see God like the maniacal, shrieking instructor who demands more than we can give. But perhaps he is really like the second instructor, the gentle woman who is there all the time but who becomes visible when we have fallen on the floor.
God will pick you up off the floor. He did it for Israel:
The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you. ISAIAH 62:2-5
Israel had just been through a time of failure and pain. Israel had failed and needed to be picked up from failure. God spends much of the last half of Isaiah encouraging those who returned from exile in Babylon (Isaiah wrote to a future generation, 200 years after his time).
Do you have a story of a time you failed or were hurt and someone lifted you up like God calling Israel a crown of beauty? Vss.4-5 say that God will both delight in and rejoice over Israel, his people. Yet even if you are not Jewish, God works the same way with non-Jews. He rejoices after all of us, his children. The question is: why is it so difficult for us to believe that God really takes joy in us?
The lie is that you are not good enough for God. Many people are like a single adult who does not believe in himself or herself. Many think, “No one will love me.”
The truth is that you are a crown of beauty in the hand of God. God rejoices over you as a bridegroom over a bride.
Have you fallen on the floor a few times in your life? God is not the angry world, leaving you behind and calling you a loser. God is the one in the room all the time. We tend only to see him when we are on the floor. He doesn’t walk out on us. He picks us up off the floor.