It’s been a day. Sometimes, it seems like it’s been a whole long string of days, and I am tired.
Jack wants me to come outside and see the hole he’s dug in the back yard and the coal he thinks he’s found. Jane wants me to read her a story. And the twins are fussy and cling to me. If I set either of them down, that one wails.
My ears need a break from the noise, the constant words and cries that drum at me from four directions.
My body needs a break from being a jungle gym and a security blanket.
I inhale and exhale the Jesus Prayer—Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me—and ask Jane to bring me a book, one the babies will enjoy. She brings Psalm 23, gorgeously illustrated by Barry Moser.
Luke squawks while I read. Ben tries to grab the book and eat it. Both grab at the pages. I keep breathing in and out, the Jesus Prayer rolling over and over in my mind—have mercy on me, have mercy on me.
A half hour later, Luke and Ben are in their high chairs, happily (and quietly!) eating Cheerios. Jack and Jane are playing outside.
I squat in front of my laptop, which is on the floor, for a reason I can no longer remember, if in fact I ever knew. While I wait for it to boot, I rest my head on my knees, close my eyes. They ache. Until this moment, when I closed them, let them rest, I did not know that they ached.
I take a long, deep breath. The Lenten questions prick at the edge of my mind: What do I hunger for? What do I thirst for?
I hunger for silence, stillness, rest. Time to simply be.
I thirst for space to reflect and ponder and hagah the word of God.
The Bible memory work I do each day is good. Praying as I go about my daily work is good. Creating a cone of silence around myself so I can think is good.
But sometimes I need to sit and soak in Scripture, not just say it in snatches. Sometimes I need to pray in silence and stillness and not in the midst of some other thing. Sometimes I need real silence, not the zoned-out cone I am able to create in the midst of chaos.
As I sit on the floor, my head on my knees, I think of Moser’s Caribbean rendering of Psalm 23. In the painting that accompanies the words “he restores my soul,” a sheep lies in green grass, the blazing sun shimmering hot on the field. Beside her, a young shepherd holds a large leaf in his outstretched hand, holds the leaf over her, creates shade for her to lie in, so that the sun shall not strike her by day.
I want to be that sheep. I want the Good Shepherd to make me lie down in green pastures, to lead me beside quiet waters, to restore my soul. I want to rest like that sheep in the shelter of the divine wings, to lean on the everlasting arms.
That is what I hunger for, what I thirst for.
And I realize, I who sit in this oasis of silence, these few precious moments of stillness—I realize I have been given that gift. Right here, right now, God is restoring my soul.
I exhale a short prayer of gratitude, simply the words thank you, even as I long for this moment to last and last and last.
Luke shrieks. Ben has stolen his Cheerio bowl. I inhale another Jesus Prayer, knowing (for a moment anyway) that my cry for mercy has already been answered, is being answered, will continue to be answered.
I get to my feet and go to my boys.