Many years ago, a grief counselor ended our session by handing me a two-word prescription: ‘Nurture self.’ While that might not seem like a lot, it was amazing how seeing those two words on a little Rx prescription sheet gave me the permission and freedom to seek out activities (or space or silence) that would nourish my soul. I took long walks around a lake. I listened to the bug sounds. I read books not related to my work at the time. I listened to relaxing music. I acted in community theatre productions. I wrote in a journal. I prayed.
What we often miss in the Gospel stories are the times Jesus went off to pray by himself or pray with a few of his disciples. We see those mentions as ‘interludes’ between the ‘real action’ of healing, teaching, challenging the authorities, and performing miracles. But those quiet prayer times were much more than interludes. I wonder if Jesus felt overwhelmed by all the hurt, sickness, displacement, poverty, and powerlessness he encountered everywhere he went. Did he need some time just to breathe and be? Did he need some time just to nurture self?
I’ve thought about that two-word prescription a lot these last couple of weeks. On a walk this morning along the bluff overlooking Tom Lee Park and the Mississippi River, it was comforting to see the knotted roots of a large magnolia tree on the edge of a steep drop-off. It was calming to hear the bug sounds joined by a chorus of cicadas this year. It was soothing to see the water flowing gently southward as it has done for centuries. And then to enter online Morning Prayer with many of you was a reminder too that we are part of a never-ending cycle and stream of prayer. We’re part of something bigger than the big crises that our world and we are facing. We’re part of a God who longs to nourish our souls and longs to see us nourish each other.
Quite often, I share the prescription given to me with others who feel overwhelmed. In addition to ‘nurture self,’ I will sometimes add Prayer 59 to the imaginary Rx I hand out. It’s the Prayer of Quiet Confidence, one of those under-utilized prayers in the back of the Prayer Book on page 832. It goes like this:
‘O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’