On Christmas morning, tucked into our stockings, H and I opened the gift of a one-hour massage from his mother, Geri. A gift she purchased from a friend at church because the word was getting around: the masseuse is good, and she works from home. We were giddy. What a fantastic gift!
Geri relished in coming up with something we both needed but would be hesitant to purchase for ourselves. And then she revealed one little detail that made the gift even more meaningful. “Wilma, the masseuse, is blind,” she revealed, “you might remember her escorted down the aisle for communion last Sunday.”
When Wilma greeted us at the front door of her home, I’m thankful she couldn’t see my facial expression. Because it’s safe to say that Wilma is older than both H and I, by at least two decades.
This is going to be interesting, I thought to myself as I watched her shuffle across the tile floor, arms outstretched as protection from bumping into anything harmful. I’m going to sheepishly admit right here that Tim Conway and his infamous comedy sketch, The Oldest Man came to mind.
I felt as if we had just showed up to my Grandma’s house and asked her to give us a massage.
Feeling her way around furniture and past walls, Wilma had us sit on the couch as she vanished out of view, into the kitchen. Her little dog curled up on a stool provided a helpful distraction. Hearing hints of her whereabouts–door of the microwave clicking shut, dial turning, hum of motor, refrigerator door opening and closing–seconds later, she appears holding a warm towel and a cold, water bottle.
“Which one of you wants to go first,” she asks gently through smiling lips while standing in front of us.
Tim Conway’s Oldest Man comedy sketch, I am quickly convicted, is a laughable comparison for this lovely woman. I offer to go first.
With surprising virility, Wilma’s hands rub away stress as she quietly recounts the Sunday sermon, love of community where she worships; punctuating moments of silence with stories of Jesus leading as her view slowly shrinks from panorama to porthole to pinhole to anticipated darkness.
“People are often skeptical when they see me, but I’m stronger than I look,” she admits through chuckles, as if she is discerning doubt like reading braille on the skin of my legs.
Wilma gives us one of the best massages we’ve ever had because of her heightened sensitivity. As her eyes rest from seeing, she is quick to listen and slow to speak; discerning tension where the body needs healing applied with the gift of her hands.
While lying face down on the table, I repent for incorrect quick assessments and ask God to meet Wilma’s needs.
“There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means ‘Be opened!’).”
Wilma’s eyes may not be opened to capture the light, but her life is characterized as someone living free from spiritual blindness. And Jesus longs for all of us to experience the healing miracle of Ephphatha. Not only that your mouth and ears be opened, but your whole being lived in a posture of receptivity to the presence of God.
Hurry, hustle, and being characterized as harried means we are living fast, skimming the surface of things. Making critical judgments versus living as if every moment we have breath is critical for fulfilling purpose.
How might a posture of receptivity to Christ look like for you practically over the next 40 days?
What is it that you can lay at the altar of Sabbath and allow God to heal into wholeness?
The Sabbath is for healing whatever it is that has gone awry in your life.
Maybe your body is fit but you need healing from overthinking, over analyzing, self-criticism, and being guilt-ridden about everything. If shame has beaten you down, Jesus longs for you to be freed into the sound of his voice speaking truth.
“Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Matthew 6:33 MSG
By the time I pulled my limp, relaxed body upright from the massage table, my spirit was awakened. I had experienced more than a massage but an awakening to holiness—something different, set apart, other than.
This week, we begin the holy, penitent season of Lent. Six weeks to discover the unexpected grace of an invitation by your friend Jesus to cultivate humility.
On Ash Wednesday, some with walk around with the sign of hope on the forehead declaring, I’ve made providence into a predictable formula and Christ, the servant of my self-reliance. Forgive me.
Why Sabbath for Lent?
Lent provides an altar for leaning into vulnerability; choosing the smudgy grace of a do-over through Christ’s crucifixion, and accepting that you are dust.
God is present, but we can’t see the evidence of His presence in undesirable circumstances.
God is knocking and waiting, but we can’t hear or discern when distracted by busyness.
God is trustworthy, but we are skeptical due to the current climate.
God is faithful, but disappointment halting hope makes us doubters.
Lent is an opportunity for God to reveal how he’s been at work in your life.
While you are waiting on your circumstances to shift and make sense, standing empty handed and dumbfounded, God is longing to give fresh perspective to our spiritual blindness.
“The evidence accumulates that if we are to live out the reality and meaning of creation, we are going to be inextricably involved with Sabbath keeping. If Genesis is a text for getting us in on and participating in God’s creation work, Sabbath is our point of entry,” writes Eugene Peterson.
If you have are asking, “Why am I here,” and “What is my purpose,” join us over the next forty days for A Sabbath Journey for Lent.
Once a week, we’ll surrender a day of keeping busy for abiding with Jesus through rest. Forget being consumed with matters of the body to focus on matters of the spirit. By resting a specific part of your body each week, allow God to bring fresh revelation, meaning and purpose.
Through the entry point of Sabbath, we’ll discern the good God is creating amidst the chaos.
One day, one week at a time, let’s sojourn on a pilgrimage from the darkness of sin’s grasp into the Light illuminating hope through resurrection.
How to join A Sabbath Journey for Lent
Subscribe to the Sabbath Society for weekly letters that quietly slip into your inbox every Friday morning at 6:00am EST.
Already made plans for making the Lenten season meaningful? No worries. You will still find our weekly letters helpful to you regardless. A Sabbath Journey for Lent is an eBook I wrote as a gift to my readers, but not a requirement for this series. Subscribe to the blog on this page of my website and you’ll have access to the FREE download. You will also find a link to a printable journal corresponding with the chapters in Rhythms of Rest that you might find useful for this study too.
Already a blog subscriber? You’ll find the link to these free resources at the bottom of this email. And if you’ve already read A Sabbath Journey for Lent, we’ll be diving deeper into the content in the weekly Sabbath Society letters.
Do you have friends that need healing? Friends that need a reminder of Jesus’ love and truth? Share this post on social media as an invitation to join us during Lent.
And follow me on Instagram where I keep conversation fresh between us several times a week. We’ll be using the hashtag #sabbathforlent as we sojourn toward Easter together.
Let’s surrender time for rest during the Lenten season and find God’s love fresh and new on Easter.
Thank you, Shelly, for the gift of Matthew 6:33 from The Message. What a delightful metaphor (as I sip my chai tea!): “Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions.” Oh, yes! To soak in ALL that he is, is life-changing indeed. And these five words, “Don’t worry about missing out,” speak a volume of truth, because isn’t that what a lot of our bustling is about? But for me that statement also speaks of the years already past, and the nagging question, “Did I miss any doors of opportunity along the way, doors that God had for me but I was too oblivious or blinded to step through?” Those words from Matthew 6:33 minister comfort to me. that as I prayed through the decades to be surrendered to his will, God surely steered me through the right doors. P.S. I do have another Lenten study for this year but I’ll look forward to your weekly letters as always!
I’m having a second Monday. I am already subscribed to the blog but I cannot find the download link. I tried to re-subscribe but it shows I am currently subscribed. I must be overlooking something.
I’m in the same boat. I can’t find the download either! But I would be very interested in reading along this Lent.
I’m say the same thing. Can’t locate anything to download etc
Hi Jayna, at the bottom of the email you received for this blog post is a big blue box that says click here for free resources. If you follow that link it will take you to a page of free downloads and printables. A Sabbath Journey for Lent is one of those. Hope that helps!
I subscribed multiple times, but can’t open the free download links on my iPad. My laptop is too old to sync with Kindle. Any ideas? 😊
It’s only tangentially relevant to your post, Shelly, but as someone who taught blind children and teens for many years, I want to thank you for pointing people to Wilma’s skill as a blind masseuse. While technology, with its voice-activated speech and much more, has opened up many new work opportunities for the blind, massage remains an avenue for meaningful paid work for many. As you acknowledge, without the aid of vision, tactile and kinaesthetic abilities have had to be developed and trained, making them expert masseurs. In addition, there can be a level of comfort for the client, in ‘being unseen’. That can be a special grace, especially for women who might benefit from massage therapy but who are reticent to go on account of past personal indignities they have suffered.
On a more relevant note, are you familiar with the Lent Prose Hymn? There is a beautiful 1982 Hereford Cathedral version on YouTube. So good! If you are not familiar with it, I recommend it. It’s simple melody helps me to lean into the slow that is necessary for self-reflection,, and the words capture the majesty and goodness of God, in Christ, as my needed Redeemer. I moved a year ago, and know I am going to miss hearing it sung by the choir (joined by the congregation for each chorus) at the close of each service during Lent at my previous Anglican Church, and so I will be listening to this lovely version.
Blessed Lenten season.
Wow, so good. Gonna have to read this again. Brought tears to my eyes, thinking what invitation Jesus has for me in this last-minute detour from the field to my husband’s home country for a strategic home assignment. ，❤️
My desire is to focus and draw nearer to the One who died for me.