“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself fantasizing about all the wonderful ways I will seek respite and renewal. Those ways often include thoughts about exercising more diligently, going on a retreat, forming better dietary habits, reading several new books, going to a distant land, with the list of possibilities going on and on. At times the effort to seek renewal frankly has often seemed like more work – the process in and of itself is “not so renewing.”
Given my current reality with my mom, weekly visits to sit with her for a while in her nursing home, I have found myself reflecting on this ongoing challenge – “how does one get renewal when there is so much going on in so many of our lives?” What is it exactly that provides me or anyone of us with the kind of respite that indeed frees and sends our spirits to that place of soaring eagles in the midst of all the “stuff” of life.?
As leaders of churches and ministries, as members of family systems, as people struggling with the brokenness of the human body, with vocation, with conflicted situations, with disappointments and losses; as people called to care for ourselves as well as others, you and I are faced with this complex challenge day after day. Where do we go to find that sacred space that will quench our thirst and refuel our often-weary spirits?
As I thought about where I find myself, I was led to a very favorite text in Isaiah. This text has often filled my mind’s eye with a wonderful visual of what renewal looks like. The grace with which an eagle soars is quite a beautiful sight. It seems effortless. And yet in my own journey, I have often struggled with how much effort renewal takes.
This text reminds us that the true source of our renewal does not come from doing external things. Mind you, these things (many of which I have already mentioned) are helpful and are often moments of life-giving energy, but they do not guarantee renewal of spirit. I have known many a person who has returned from vacation exhausted and disgruntled. Isaiah reminds us that our ultimate renewal comes from “waiting on the Lord.” It does not come from all the market-driven activities we’re invited into. It does not come from outside forces and sources. It comes from letting God’s life-giving Spirit enter our innermost spaces. It comes from allowing God’s resurrection power to shed light into those dark corners of our often-hardened hearts. It comes from allowing the transforming presence of Jesus to shape our words and deeds.
And this my friends, can happen in the most unexpected places, in the most unplanned ways. This past week I was surprised when I felt a surge of renewal when I sat with my brothers and sisters at our Leadership Collegium meeting. I found myself filled with a profound appreciation for their faithfulness and their love. I felt a sense of peace to be gathered with them. It is always good to be with a people of hope.
So you see, my most recent renewal did not come from all my best-made plans. My most recent renewal has come from a reaffirmation that we are indeed called to minister together in this place. It has come from the prayers that you have prayed on my behalf. It has come from the quiet moments of engaging God’s Word in scripture and song together. In these expected and unexpected places, I have felt God’s renewing presence as reflected beautifully in the words of a favorite anthem-
“And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn;
Make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand”
I trust that as the summer approaches, you will consider the many ways you will seek and find a renewal that will allow God’s powerful Spirit to break in and take you to “the breath of dawn.”