Each birthday I ask God for a passage to focus on for the coming year. That particular portion of Scripture becomes a companion, traveling with me as a challenging, comforting, transforming friend. And like a friend, as the months go by, shares more and more, revealing insights, subtleties and layers of meaning.
This is what I think of when I read Paul’s words, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Allow a chunk of God’s Word to become more than an idea or sentiment, letting it take up residence in you, kneading truth into your being. Let one particular passage infuse your thinking, your prayers, your rhythms, your formation as you journey along with it.
Psalm 119:26-35 was one such passage shaping my soul a couple years ago. Within were two segments that especially struck me: “My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your word.” and “I recounted my ways and You answered me.”
This passage surfaced near the end of a long stretch of valley, a wearying season of sorrow spanning several years, marked by the long goodbye to my mom, the passing of Sam’s mom, launching children into adulthood while halfway across the world, multiple friends departing the field, significant changes in our role, and shifts of capacity in body and mind.
Like a personal debriefer, God came alongside as I recounted my ways in this valley. The question I wanted Him to answer was, “Where were You?” The tone of my question wasn’t doubt. I knew He was there, but I also knew my weariness had often caused me to miss seeing Him. I longed to gratefully acknowledge His presence, especially in those moments He was quiet, simply present, waiting, not forcing conversation.
The process of recounting my ways and looking for Him became my Sabbath project that year. Each Sabbath I spent time creating and praying through a timeline covering this valley season, starting in a year when much shifted and left my identity adrift. (The focus passage at the time of those shifts, by the way, was Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”)
Over months of Sabbaths, I recounted my ways, looking back over life events and my responses to them. I bought an art book for my timeline, filling it with events, verses, and prayers, pouring over old calendars and journals. Then I began sitting with God in those events, pondering, journaling, and sometimes unpacking them with a friend.
The very first notation in my timeline marked a trip our 18-year-old Sara and I took to Thailand to change her visa status. While there we snorkeled in an enchanting cove. As we slipped into the warm sea, the colors and movement under the surface were breathtakingly beautiful. Tiny transparent jellyfish, barely visible, were also in the water. At first, we hardly noticed the occasional harmless sting because of the beauty of our surroundings. But eventually, the effect of those little stings accumulated, draining our desire to stay in the water.
This image became a metaphor of many of the events on my timeline. Those “harmless” little stings of losses contributed to a deluge of grief. Each hug goodbye, each parting, each leaving, each tug of missing, accumulated into a sea of sorrow. God was gently shepherding me back to those memories to generously measure out His restoration and rest laced with compassion and lovingkindness.
Significant to this process was the sense God wanted to be with me in these memories, to bring light and understanding to where my heart was and the ways He was tending my soul at that particular time.
“I recounted my ways and You answered me.” This passage has been woven into my fabric, a part of my being and understanding of God’s presence and work in me.
How about you? What passages have journeyed with you over a season? We want to encourage you to consider a passage of Scripture to focus on this year, letting it dwell in you richly and sink deeply into your being.
Join us at The Grove by either linking up your blog post or share your passage or a way you have found to let the Word dwell in you richly in the comments. And don’t forget to share your images on Instagram using #VelvetAshesPassage
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