He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Exodus 38:8, ESV)
From 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon until the same hour on Wednesday, my husband gave me three days alone in the house. He kissed me goodbye, and I opened the door to our guest room and disappeared inside. It happensd about eight years ago, an experiment, an in-house visit to the Tent of Meeting, and it was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done.
We met occasionally in the hall, if I came out to get soup at meal times or to brush my teeth, but we didn’t speak. He completely honored those 72 hours, alone with the Lord. I suppose he was having his own at-home sabbatical in a sense, but I can only write of my own.
That’s where Moses used to meet with the Lord, in that tent set up outside and away from camp, where he could go and be alone with God. Joshua used to go, too, and just stay close by, waiting. They called it the Tent of Meeting.
Today is the first day of Lent for this year, and this is what I want to do for my Lenten fast, go back into that Tent of Meeting, as best I can. I share it with you because it was so precious and so worthwhile.
We will come back to the logistics in a moment, but first I want to share this with you: at the end of those three days alone in a bedroom in our house, alone with the Lord, my husband and son graciously managing everything without me, I came out as one walking on air. I was so over-brimming with contentment that I didn’t want to speak; perhaps it would be better to say, I had nothing to say. I was so full of the nearness of the Lord that I couldn’t, that I didn’t want to, speak of it. There was nothing to talk about. Absolutely nothing I could have said would have measured up to all that I was … just alive in the pleasure of the Lord. Can you tell that it is difficult even now to explain what I felt? I wasn’t giddy, but my heart was plump with joy. It wasn’t that I was afraid the bubble would burst, it was just that I was still inside and there was nothing that could be added or subtracted.
I want that again. I want it for you. Can it be had? Some of you have more that you must do on any given day than I have to do in a week. None of us can do more than we can. All of us can do what we can. I’m only here to say, what you can do will be worth more than I can explain. Your best effort might be no trolling the internet and no daytime television, no recreational shopping and no casual phone calls for the next weeks until Easter … doing all that can reasonably be done that we can be alone with the Lord every chance we get, as many hours as we can have.
We were on our way to a Bible study that night, and Frank seemed instinctively to know that quiet smiles were much more the perfection of the moment than conversation would have been. All evening long, people talked and laughed, prayed and expounded, and I, I who always had something to say or contribute, I was silent and happy. Silent and happy, but inside, invisibly, my heart was shimmering with love for those who were there in that room. I didn’t tell anyone where I’d been, in that Tent, I didn’t mention it, and I don’t remember that I spoke at all except just to listen to what people were saying and make a proper response. Best of all, it wasn’t even that I was trying not to talk, it was being so replete with peace and pleasure that I had nothing to say and found myself only interested in what others said.
Most especially, no one there had any faults that night. There was nothing in them that I would have fixed or changed by my efforts. I was delighted with them, one and all. They were loved, and God was their Father and mine, and I had been praying for them, for others and for my family in the Presence of God, and it was enough.
So … Lent, 2016. I’ve gone back to that experience a few times, only for a day or two. What I wish to do this year is to see how closely I can replicate it for forty days. Not having Frank to run interference and answer the phone and the door, I will have some limitations. I have some appointments already on the books, and I had best not hide from those in need if a need arises and God calls me to it, but what I can do is to eliminate every extraneous thing.
At the core, this is the heart of monasticism. This is what we strive for every day in Cor Unum Abbey, but there are so many diversions, so many responsibilities, so many opportunities … and we have so many interests, devices, entertainments, cares, concerns, and anxieties.
This Abbess knows she has tremendously more time than most people do, and still I waste dozens of hours every week. Oh dear! What help is there for other women? I can only say and remember what it was like to emerge from those three days, and I do want it for you. I want it for me.
This is Cor Unum Abbey. No one here is under any obligation but to the relationship she has been given with Christ Jesus, Savior, King, and Lord.
There is one thing important to clarify …
What did I DO those three days? Nothing special. I took my Bible with me and a songbook, and I used them both. I had a notebook at hand in case the Lord said anything that I would need to remember. I can do that for forty days, make use of those items. I even took two books with me, one to use as a devotional and one that was edifying and sweet, just in case, and I did read a few chapters in it. I took my thanksgiving beads, and I used them many times. I ate healthy and light so that I wouldn’t get “overcharged with surfeiting” (SUCH a great expression!) inside that Tent. I did some stretching morning and night … I’ll need more than that for forty days, some brisk walks at the least. I’ll try to walk hand in hand with Jesus Christ. There was prayer and intercession, plenty of it, but the goal and the focus was to do everything in and with the Lord, to see if I could not let Him out of my sight for those hours.
This time, instead of 72 hours, it will be an epoch of 47 days. (As you may know, the Lenten season isn’t a perfect 40-day span, for Sundays are more indulgent “free days” for some in their fast, and this year includes the Leap Year day.) I’m feeling my way a bit, but even here in the Abbey there are times of a more intense seeking after God. The television can stay dark and silent (my first fast of the year.) I want to see how many hours, not by count but by eliminating everything else, I can spend in that Tent of Meeting, that place in my home and in my heart where the Lord dwells in glory.
I’ll check back in every few days, as the Lord leads. I hope you can find at least a few days or a few hours each day, to run away to Him in a responsible way! For goodness sake, don’t neglect your husbands if you have them! Instead, take away from stolen pleasures, the kind that rob us more than we know until we forsake them. I would love to hear, after Easter Sunday, that you didn’t see any of these messages because you didn’t get online!
Happy Lent … great happiness to you on the other side.
Women praying in Israel and the site believed to be that of the Tent of Meeting
by permission, Creative Commons