After the swirl of new routines and commitments of the new year, the sparsity connected with the season of Lent is always welcome. I look forward to refocusing on what is essential and true.
Yet often I still spin with anxiety and fear. A faithful friend of mine always recommends worship when I am feeling this way. She tells me that in worship we are reminded of who God is. When we spend time in worship, our problems seem quite small as we realize the grandeur of our God.
One song that has been grounding for me is Tremble by I AM THEY. When I sense anxiety, I put my AirPods in and listen. For four minutes I am reminded who God is: the One who silences fear.
The lyrics are simple and repetitive but rich in scriptural imagery. The name of Jesus is “light the shadows can’t deny.” This echoes the book of James (2:19) which says even demons fear God and tremble at his name. Or the demons called Legion in the Gospel of Mark that beg Jesus for mercy, so he casts them into a herd of pigs.
In the lyrics “breathe, call these bones to live,” recall when the Lord told Ezekiel to prophesize over the Valley of Bones (Ez 37). When Ezekiel obeys, the Lord breathes life into the bones. Tendons and flesh and skin begin to cover them, and they live once again. This image sustains me in the midst of Lent, when sometimes I feel like dry bones.
Even after the song is finished, after I take out my AirPods and return to tasks at hand, the chorus repeats in the back of my mind. It is the Spirit within me, praying when often I cannot. In so, I am reminded of God’s splendor and rest in it.
When I was a child, God’s presence was as close as my own breath. Yes, there were times when I was scared or lonely or confused, but I always felt that he was there in the middle of all of it. I’ve lost that feeling as a grown up, but I am always searching to find even a glimmer of that once again.
Brad Aaron Modlin’s poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Fourth Grade” brings me back to that God-shaped spot in my memory where he was there in every question and hurt and in every delight and new thing I learned.
The title serves as the first line of the poem, prompting a list of all the marvels you missed while not at school. As the next lines let you know, this was not an ordinary day:
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind,
That line captivates me. I remember as a child, standing to see if I could hear something in the wind. I thought if I was quiet enough, I could hear the mysteries of the universe that others were too noisy to hear. The line draws illusions to Elijah on Mount Sinai when he heard God in a gentle whisper or the apostles at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon them.
Yet the day you missed school was filled with the ordinary too, like
how to find meaning in pumping gas
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks.
Although Psalms and prayer are the only two words that hold religious meaning, the poem is God haunted. It invites the reader to find God’s presence in the mundane, to discover he is as close as our own breath.
Shemaiah Gonzalez’s work has appeared in America Magazine, U.S. Catholic and Loyola Press, among others. She thrives in moments where storytelling and faith collide. Her biography on beloved Catholic writer Brian Doyle will be published with Liturgical Press, Fall 2023. She is currently working on transforming her popular Substack Undaunted Joy into a collection of essays. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.