Lenten Journey of Care – Celebrating Easter!
10 The Lord proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 29: 10-14
I always have a fallout week after Easter.
After 13 years of ministries, 13 years of surviving holy week as a pastor- the extra pressure, the addition of services, and the generalized anxiousness about doing it all right, I have found myself sick at least 50% of the Easter Mondays.
What do self-care and soul care look like in a season of disruption, even a holy one?
One of my favorite scriptures comes from Jeremiah. It is a well-known verse, one we speak over graduates, babies, and newlyweds. It is a verse of hope and excitement about the future. “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans not to harm you but to prosper you. To give you hope and a future.”
If you are like me, this verse is beautiful because it is one of the places in scripture God says just what we want God to say. You get what you want. You will get all the resources you need. You will prosper. You can be like Midas and everything you touch will turn to gold. You are going to be successful and your future is going to be bright.
I like when God says what I want God to say, don’t you?
The only problem with this verse is that it was not spoken at a high point in the life of God’s people. It is spoken at maybe one of the lowest points. Jeremiah is a prophet to the Southern Kingdom, and by this point, in his story, the city of Jerusalem has fallen. Many have been carted off into exile, many more have been killed in the streets by the Babylonians. The temple has been destroyed and ransacked. The streets are filled with the evidence of war, the stench of decay is unavoidable, and with the holy of holies torn through the people feel as if God has left them.
In the lowest place they could imagine finding themselves, God then speaks. And he starts with – “This is going to take some time.” God says, in 70 years, this hardship will be over.
Many of them will not even make it 70 years. God is going to make things right and new, but it will take some time. But in the meantime, God says this- hold on to me.
So often, we place our value on what we are doing and how we are succeeding now. Whether that be in our work lives, our family lives, our financial lives, or even our health and wellness journeys. And we can wear ourselves out trying to make all things come together. And there is inevitably a point of breaking – whether it be in a relationship, or doubt, or even just carrying exhaustion in our own bodies.
And the thing I hear God saying through Jeremiah is this:
This does not depend on you. God says, “I have plans for you. They are my plans not your plans. And they are good plans.” The Hebrew word here is better translated as “thoughts.” God thinks good and holy and loving thoughts about us. And those thoughts and plans will not harm you, instead, they will bring you peace. So often I have heard this as plans to prosper you, which isn’t a bad translation, but it leads us to think God will always make us successful (and we know that isn’t the truth). Instead, God is saying stick it out with me. Dwell with me. Pray and I will answer. Seek and you will find me. And we will face this future together. My future is good and I am not done working.
This is also the story of Easter.
The women walked to that tomb early on the third day. They were exhausted. They had bags under their eyes from all the tears and they could hardly pick their feet up because they had hardly slept a wink. They thought that life would work out one way and instead here they were walking to a tomb to dress their Lord’s body for a proper burial.
When the earth shook, and the angel rolled the stone away and announced his resurrection they couldn’t believe their eyes…until they saw him, and what they thought was the end became the beginning.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans not to harm you but to give you peace. To give you hope and a future.
So, what does self-care and soul care look like in the hard moments and the recovery moments?
For me, in this season it looks like trusting that promise. No matter the challenge, the grief, or the joy God’s thoughts about me are the same. Dwelling on the knowledge of God’s love, the forgiveness and mercy of the cross, and the new life that is available to me through the reality of the resurrection. That God’s desire for me is not about success or perfection which leads to devastation and illness. But peace.
A Benediction for Easter
May we in this easter season experience the joy of dwelling in God’s peace. And when you don’t feel it or see it, just hold on to the feet of the resurrected Christ until you do. Amen!