Have you ever had the experience of a heavy cloth being draped over your soul without being able to place a name on it? An experience that stayed with you until you opened it to prayer in a bit of quiet space? This happened to me this past week. I was leading an online course and technical difficulties pushed their way into the time. Suddenly students were locked out of the class, microphones were alive with such booming echoes when students tried to participate that it prohibited them from being able to respond. In the end, I felt I hadn’t been able to provide a hospitable hour for the students. It felt as if my body were heavy, my mind stuck and my soul sunken. It was the next morning, as I was driving home from dropping the kids at school, that a scripture phrase dropped down.
Deut 1:21b “‘fear not, neither be discouraged.” The cloth was named – discouragement. And the fear uncovered . With the naming the cloth lost some of its power.
This particular passage from Deuteronomy comes during the Mosaic memoirs of Israel’s journey from Sinai to Transjordan. It is time to move. The people are to take possession of a new land but they are hesitant and afraid. They doubt God’s plan although he has shown his presence throughout their Exodus journey and desert years. They tell each other that the people and things of the land ahead are bigger, taller, stronger than anything they can overcome. They turn away from the way ahead. I had been feeling this same way after the course. The obstacles were too great to overcome: they were bigger, taller and stronger. Fortunately for me, God sent several angels of encouragement from a variety of communities to help me combat this heavily draped cloth. And the cloth lost more of its power and I became less disheartened and had a renewed energy that could be directed toward resolving the issues rather than giving up. I had forgotten at least two messages that I have had to learn consistently in my life: that God requires faithfulness from me and not perfection; and, secondly, God’s Spirit flows into and through challenging situations with vigor and energy and life when I am drained and discouraged. I am not alone. The following blog post from St Joseph’s Monastery captures what the Rule has to say about the cloth of discouragement. Saint Benedict set about creating a path for our life’s journey. A call to continual conversion and growth without the expectation of perfection. Have you ever felt the cloth of discouragement upon you?