THURSDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT
EST C:12, 14-16, 23-25
PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C8
Today’s readings teach us how to dare greatly, like Queen Esther. When we remember God’s faithfulness in the past and deep love for us in the present, we will not be afraid to risk all that our situation demands.
In moments of crisis—when we must decide whether to turn off the life-support machines or leave them on, whether to commit to the relationship or walk away from it—we naturally cry to God wholeheartedly with Esther: “Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.” But in smaller, less-obvious ways, we take our lives into our hands every day. Will we dwell on the ways that significant person is failing to love us, or will we instead focus on how best to love her? Will we hide our true feelings or bring them out into the light of discussion, potentially “rocking the boat”? Will we try that new thing that holds the promise of joy but the risk of failure, or will we play it safe?
I think we all long to undo the hiding that began in Eden, to live openly, honestly, and vulnerably. But it is so easy to let fear paralyze us. The Psalm for today points to a great antidote to fear: remembering what God has done for us in the past, those moments “when I called, [and] you answered me; [when] you built up strength within me.” So today let’s take a few moments to reflect: “What am I afraid of now? What do I know I need to do, but tremble at the prospect?” Then let’s remember specific ways God has blessed us before. Perhaps then, like Esther, we will push past our fears into new blessings.
By remembering these past blessings, we open ourselves to the reality of God’s present love, which guarantees that when we ask for goodness, we will receive; that when we don’t give up knocking, the door will open; that even when we seem to be surrounded only by stones, God will give us the bread of life.
May we persist, then, in daring to do what we must, in being what God has made us to be, like the starling in Richard Wilbur’s poem “The Writer”:
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
Scott Ragland is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy.