On Tuesday I was blessed to attend on online clergy gathering called “Come to the Well.” In response to the deep challenges imposed upon us by the pandemic for the past ten months, Bishop Bard put on his pastoral mantle and invited clergy throughout the Michigan Conference to meet him at the ‘well’ for a time of spiritual refreshment. Our meeting place was Jacob’s well (see John 4), where Jesus met a Samaritan woman and offered her the refreshment of living water. The invitation to renewal came from Jesus himself:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’Matthew 11:28-30, from The Message
To be honest, I came to the well with a bit of a skepticism in my heart; I just wasn’t sure what I would find there, and whether or not it would truly speak to me at a spirit level. I’m happy to say that I returned from my gathering refreshed and very glad I made the effort to go. Throughout the morning, a good friend and colleague of mine periodically texted each other and we both agreed that it was very beneficial, and that it lived up to its purpose.
At one point, Bishop Bard offered a prayer-poem written by civil rights leader and theologian Howard Thurman entitled “Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me.” I found it very powerful and have since written it into my prayer journal. I’d like to share it with you.
Open unto me, light for my darkness
Open unto me, courage for my fear
Open unto me, hope for my despair
Open unto me, peace for my turmoil
Open unto me, joy for my sorrow
Open unto me, strength for my weakness
Open unto me, wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me, forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me, tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me, love for my hates
Open unto me, Thyself for myself
Lord, Lord, open unto me!
The fact is, over the past year—and now, the past couple of weeks in particular—we have undergone a great deal of challenges we never anticipated. Knowing this, early on in our gathering Bishop Bard invited us to type in the word that best describes how we’ve been feeling up to this point. The list abounded with words like frustration, disconnected, hopeless, confused, unsure, and so on. At the end, he asked us to do the same thing, but this time the list included words like hopeful, joyful, rested, and so forth. My guess is that lots of you are feeling the same things many of us expressed – frustration, disconnected, unsure, etc. What I learned on Tuesday and want you to know is that you’re not alone! The fact is, lots of other people are feeling the same way. But more importantly, you’re not alone in that Jesus is with you, and he desires to answer the above prayer when you make it your own. Jesus, open unto me light for my darkness…courage for my fear…hope for my despair…peace for my turmoil. Pray this prayer every day for a month. After you pray it each time, just sit quietly for 5 minutes and let the presence of God seep into your heart and mind. My guess is that you’ll begin to notice a change in your experience of life, if only a little bit at first. But stick with it, friend, and give the Lord permission to move in you. I guarantee that you’ll be glad you did.