What to Do When Words Fail | Sojourners

What to Do When Words Fail

Image via Valentina Calà / flickr.com

I arrange my Mondays around a certain ritual, a yoga class taught by my gifted teacher, Mireille (Mimi) Mears. She’s from Belgium. From Charleroi, to be exact. It's about 30 miles away from Brussels. Her nephew lives a few minutes away from the attack site with his wife and three children under the age of 6. Mimi always closes our class with a ritual, this prayer/meditation/homily (with her beautiful Belgian accent) and yesterday was no exception:

"As you bring your hands together in front of the heart, take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking the time and the energy to be here today. We dedicate our practice to those who couldn't be here, that they may benefit from the energies we have nurtured together. To those who are suffering, that they may find Peace and Relief, and for the healing of our species and our planet, knowing that it starts with each one of us taking responsibility for the choices that we are making on a day to day basis. Honoring the light within yourself and each other, that connects us all, we say: ‘Namaste.’”

That was Monday morning. Monday night, I went to a healing service at church for a member of my Sunday school class who is battling cancer again/still.

In our most difficult times, our own words may fail us. (Mimi’s FB post this morning said, “I have no words.” Then she asked for prayers.) So, we join together, hold hands, lay hands on one another, and rely on ritual and tradition to get us through. We read aloud our Scriptures that have sustained others who lived before us and have sustained us in earlier times in our own lives as individuals or members of a particular community. We anoint with oil in the name of Christ. And we listen to music that takes us to places that words cannot and begins to heal us cell by cell when all the words have been exhausted.

So when I heard the news Tuesday morning, the words of Romans 12:15 came to mind (as they had in the healing service last night): “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” So I opened Scripture to read the rest of the passage, including this:

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

To me, it sounds a lot like Mimi’s prayer.

And not a single phrase of it sounds particularly do-able to me, let alone easy. But because it’s Holy Week — where we move in slow motion with a magnifying glass to watch Jesus’s every move, where we see him actually put all of this into practice — I feel called to at least try a little more than usual.

P.S.: Here’s part of the hymn we sang for healing. It strikes me as appropriate for today.

We Cannot Measure How You Heal — Ye Banks and Braes

We cannot measure how you heal
or answer every sufferer's prayer,
yet we believe Your grace responds
where faith and doubt unite to care.
Your hands, though bloodied on the cross
survive to hold and heal and warn,
to carry all through death to life
and cradle children yet unborn.

So some have come who need Your help,
and some have come to make amends,
as hands which shaped and saved the world
are present in the touch of friends.

Lord, let Your Spirit meet us here
to mend the body, mind and soul,
to disentangle peace from pain
and make Your broken people whole.

This article originally appeared at On Scripture.