ELM Lenten Devotional: Natalie Benson

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Seeking God Without Certainty: Inspired by Psalm 27
By: Natalie Benson
 
Lent used to feel like certainty when nothing else felt certain. I knew exactly where to find God and how to present my prayers neatly, wrapped up with a tidy bow on top. But Lent changed for me in 2020. I began the year with loving friends, success in my first year of divinity school, and a million affirmations of my “call to ministry.” So why did I feel so lost, empty, and alone? 
 
Come March, committing to “doing Lent right” felt like the only thing I could “do right.” So, like a good seminarian, I planned to have the Lenty-est Lenten season ever, complete with a silent meditation retreat in Taizé, France. Little did I know that the 2020 Lenten season would also be complete with a global pandemic and an uncertainty in the world that matched the uncertainty I felt inside. My Taizé trip was cancelled, and instead, I’d spend Lent quarantining in my childhood bedroom. The world turned upside down, and my certainty about God disappeared. With pandemic restrictions, I couldn’t even look for God behind church doors. 
 
But strangely, I felt held. Not by the God who expected a perfectly executed Lenten season, but by the God who met me in places I didn’t expect. This God held the frantic scribbles in my journals, my defeated body that couldn’t muster the energy to pull itself up off of my bedroom floor, and my midnight whisper to the sky one night – “I think I’m gay.” In the quiet of quarantine, I noticed God’s closeness – so close that I could feel her breath on my cheek. I wondered how long she’d had her hand in mine. Slowly, my body began to feel like church. It was all I had left for flesh and blood worship, and it turned out, it was all I needed.
 
As I enter this Lenten season, I still don’t quite know how to seek this God who shows up everywhere. I pray I may be like the Psalmist and seek just “one thing:” “that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life.” The house of God welcomes the parts of me that don’t feel like they belong in church. The house of God doesn’t go stale on the days that I just don’t know how to pray. The house of God welcomes me to do no more and no less than to just be.
 
Prayer
 
God, I’m not sure what to do with you right now. I’m not even sure what to do with myself. But I’m trusting that you’re here, holding me lovingly in your hands. May your gentle presence fall lightly on my heart as I seek to just be with you in these uncertain days. May I feel the contentment with myself that I know you hope for me. Amen.
 

Image Description: Photo of a femme person with long hair with a background of a starry night with the words, “In the quiet of quarantine, I noticed God’s closeness – so close that I could feel her breath on my cheek. I wondered how long she’d had her hand in mine. Slowly, my body began to feel like church. It was all I had left for flesh and blood worship, and it turned out, it was all I needed.” – Natalie Benson

Natalie Benson (she/her) is a third year Master’s of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School and an aspiring university chaplain. A proud Midwesterner- Natalie grew up in Bloomington, IL and later went to the University of Indianapolis, where she studied Psychology and Religion. In college, she discovered a deeper connection to her Lutheran faith through interfaith dialogue. If ministry doesn’t work out, Natalie would be happy living on the beach and enjoying her new-found love for surfing.

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