I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah.
—Psalm 143:6 (NRSVUE)
MARTHA SPONG | The further we get into Lent, the harder it is to keep up with the practices I set for myself. I forget why I chose the particular thing; not the practice itself, but the motivation. If you’re still here reading, but having to remind yourself why, you’ll know what I mean.
Why did this particular practice seem like a good idea five weeks ago?
I remember my failures. If I seek some inner change, some private growth attempt, why did I think giving up caffe mochas would bring me closer to God? It only made me cranky; my daughter made me promise never to do it again. But since then I’ve learned, whether we’re giving something up or taking something on, the reckoning will always come.
The psalmist describes a desire that would not be visible to others, a thirst for God so deep the soul experiences drought conditions. This far along in Lent we are in deep with Jesus, making the final turn toward Jerusalem. It might be that the commitments we thought would bring us closer to God have left us stretched out, as thirsty as Jesus must have been during his forty days in the wilderness. It’s tempting, sometimes, to give up on it. If we can’t do it perfectly, we may think, what’s the point?
Why did my practice seem like a good idea? Why did yours? What were we thirsty for?
Maybe the point of the practice is not to win Lent, but to reach this moment of feeling stretched and parched and uneasy, and to keep practicing anyway.
PRAYER Spirit of God, I stretch myself towards you; help me to keep stretching. Amen.About the Writer:
MARTHA SPONG is a UCC pastor, clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle.

Source: “Running from Empty” | 2023 Lent Devotional by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, made up of United Church of Christ ministers and writers who collaborate on resources for people in the church, outside the church, and not sure about the church.