I find it almost impossible to believe that exactly one year ago, Paul and I were heading out on a Trans-Atlantic cruise, to celebrate my 60th birthday and our 35th anniversary. Little did we know all that awaited us in 2020 as Covid-19 struck the world. For today, I want to look back on a journal entry I wrote while I was on that floating city.
Lectio Divina: Jeremiah 20:7-8
So this happened, Lord, which of course You know because in a sense, You MADE it happen. It is one of those hugely mysterious, almost scary, and yet comforting things about You.
I’m on the ship, the Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s crown jewel, and she is a jewel. We’ve been at sea now for 7 days, changed time zones four times and seen land zero times since we set sail.
And it is absolutely perfect. I’m sitting on our little balcony deck on the seventh floor of this humongous 18 story ship. A city on water.
I have loved every minute of this cruise and often, I’ve said to myself, “I imagined it right. Just right.” Throughout each day, I’ll turn to Paul and say, “Have I told You how absolutely tickled I am to be here?” He’s heard me chuckle and giggle and laugh more in these past seven days than in many, many months. It is perfect.
This is what I imagined and hoped and prayed for. We’ve not had any internet in a week and that’s been amazing. There is no lack of activities in this floating city! And the food! Yes, abundant and huge variety and so many different places to eat.
Anyway, I could write for hours about all this cruise is for us and for me, but right now, I want to write about the Lectio I did this morning. Days are long or short on board, but they are all mine, all ours! But really, they are all Yours, Lord.
And that is what the Lectio is about.
So I’m reading in Jeremiah and have just finished the chapters about the Potter and the Clay and the Clay Jar. Now those, I am sure I could do a great Lectio on. That was my thought. But I, like my dear Abbie in The Promised Land, am an obedient pilgrim, and I will keep reading as is the plan. I remembered all the other Lectios I’ve done in rather obscure places and always, You spoke to me as I followed the reading I was already doing.
But chapter 20 of Jeremiah starts off really, really grim: Jeremiah beaten by Pashhur the priest. And it’s all about Terror on Every Side and then the punishment Pashhur is going to receive and all his household too because he prophesied lies. Ugh.
Those are the first six verses, and as I read them, I literally thought, “Lord, bummer. Every time up until now when I’ve done a Lectio, well, it speaks, but this seems like divine wrath and judgment and it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stir my soul but makes me disappointed in You. That You really can’t orchestrate my life so that wherever I am You invade.”
Stupid, silly reasoning, but those were my thoughts, Lord.
And then I turned the page.
Because I was at the bottom of the page and the next page starts with this header: Jeremiah Compelled to Preach. And I draw in my breath and read the next six verses, 7-13, and I feel Your presence and Your power and Your might, Lord. Like the rolling ocean just below me, so vast and unbelievably wide with the sky touching the ocean and the shimmering crystals of life dancing on the surface as it is kissed by the sun.
I felt You saying, “Ah- hem, Lizzie,” but in a loving yet stern voice. “Don’t ever doubt, don’t ever question, dear, my presence and my power. Just don’t.”
So timidly, tail between my legs, I read those verses, three times, out loud. Slowly.
And here are the things that pierce my heart, as Jeremiah speaks: “I say, ‘I won’t mention him or speak any longer in his name.’ But his message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” V. 9
And that’s exactly what Paul and I were talking about last night. I can’t get away from my writing because, Lord, every time I try, this is the message I get. It wells up inside of me, the stories, the inspiration, the absolute inability to not write. I have to write! Even when I say to You that the journey is rough and unpleasant, filled with potholes, filled with disappointments, I have to write.
And goodness, at least I’m not poor Jeremiah with real enemies who want to stone him and exert all kinds of other violence on him!
His message is gloom and doom, but it always encourages repentance.
Sometimes, You know, Lord, that I wonder if I water down the Gospel. If I don’t shout it loudly enough. But I feel You saying again, as You have said umpteen times before, “Just keep doing what You’re doing, Lizzie. Just keep it up.”
So Lord, as Jeremiah said, “I have become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.”
You prevail, You always prevail. At least, I want You to always prevail and how thankful I am when You remind me again of Your absolute infinite knowledge and power. And love.
Another thing that stuck out to me was when Jeremiah said, “But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior.”
I don’t usually think of You this way, Lord, but it’s true. And today, as I was first lamenting my Lectio, first thinking that You aren’t predictable, which You aren’t, but I was seeing it as a disappointment, You show just how unpredictable You are by hitting me over the head with a message straight from Your heart, IF I WILL ONLY TURN THE PAGE! That’s it, too, isn’t it, Lord? You ask us to keep turning the pages in our lives and trusting that You will keep showing up, page after page after page. Sometime in a mighty, almost violent way, sometimes in a still small voice, and sometimes in the desert, the silence.
But You are always there. You are always with me. You. Never. Let. Me. Go.
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.