Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. 

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Day Nineteen

He Led Them

Written By Mary C. Earle

Practice Note

Meditation: <listen>

He led them with a cloud by day,
And all the night through with a glow of fire.
—Psalm  78:14

This line from Psalm 78 recounts the experience of the Israelites as they trekked through the wilderness of Sinai after having escaped from slavery in Egypt. The living God led them, with a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night. They had no map. They had never been this way before. They followed the cloud or the pillar of fire, through the desert, searching for the land of milk and honey.

Sometimes when we live with illness we find we are in territory for which we have no map. We discover, perhaps for the first time, that we can be truly sick and weak. Or we may discover that a chronic condition has suddenly produced some unforeseen secondary effects. Or we find that a malady that was chronic has been pronounced terminal, and we are confronted with the fact of our mortality.

The imagery of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night invites us to be alert for God’s presence with us in these times. We may not have a sign as clear as these. Yet God’s presence is there with us when we do not know the way. When we have no compass. When we have no map. When we have no idea how a day will unfold. God is present through Christ in and through those times and those places. God is present within your broken body. God is present within each cell, within your breath, within your marrow.

And God is present in and through those who tend you, those who help you, those who walk with you.

Ever-present Christ, when I don’t know what will come next, when I don’t know what the day will bring, when I cannot control my circumstances, may I remember that You are as near to me as my breath, as close to me as the beating of my heart. Amen.

Practice: <listen>

Begin with finding a comfortable position, and then allow your breath to find its own gentle rhythm. You may find it helpful to breathe gently for several minutes. Then, if you are physically able, place one hand on your chest so that you can feel the beat of your heart. As you become aware of the steady beat, remember that God is closer to you than the beat of your heart. Let the prayer be nothing more than awareness of the heartbeat and awareness of God’s presence.

Reference Note: All  psalms are taken from the psalter in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.