For the last couple months, Kirk and I have been attending a new contemplative eucharist service at the little episcopal parish around the corner from our house on Sunday evenings.
We’ve visited the church off and on over the last five years, and every time we are drawn in by the teaching and joyful spirit of the rector, Father Rob, as well as the holy feel of the beautiful chapel with its high beams, polished wood pews, incense and candles, and beautiful stained glass. It’s truly an inspiring place we’re thankful to have found, and this new contemplative eucharist service, with its slow pace, long periods of silence, candles, and sacred music, especially invites my heart settle into its more natural posture of rest before God.
Last night, during the short reflection the rector offers after the Scriptures are read in the service, Father Rob spoke about God’s primary response of mercy toward us. He quoted an old traditional prayer called the prayer of humble access, which says:
We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.
I thought of that prayer this morning as I brought my heart before God to start the day. My spirit felt heavy, and my heart low and weary. I looked at Christ this morning, who is full of such strength, and I had not the strength in myself to rise and meet him.
I just needed his tenderness.
This need for Christ’s tenderness this morning reminded me of a sweet and intimate prayer time he and I shared several weeks ago. I had begun to learn some of the ways he is inviting me to partner with him in the work he is about in this world, and a little voice inside me began to wonder if I had lost my unique specialness to him. Was I simply going to be an appendage to his work now, a convenient pair of hands that he can use?
I hated asking those questions because they ran so contrary to the truths I’ve learned of Jesus and of my value to him. But there they were: those questions that queried my unique worth beyond what I could and would do with and for him.
On that day several weeks ago, Jesus stopped what he was doing — all the preparations and activity he was about concerning the work we are going to be doing together — and came near. He sat down next to me, put his arm around my shoulder, and drew me close. He let me rest my head upon his chest for as long as I wanted. And when I looked into his eyes, I saw how much he knows and loves me.
I am not just a pair of hands. I am not just a worker in his fields. I am known.
I wonder today if you need a similar moment of quiet tenderness with Christ. As the prayer says, God’s first instinct toward you is always mercy, always love. He will come near and hold you if you’d like him to.
Will you invite his arms around you right now?