03/05/2013 09:15 am ET Updated May 05, 2013

Be Kind to Prophets

The season of Lent portrays the dark night of the soul as a basic element in religious or spiritual experience. Psalm 51 says: "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." A basic element is that in Lent we are invited to remember that we are dust, and to dust shall we return. In writing these meditations I invoke the spirit of my book "Are You Running with Me, Jesus?" And as I approach my 90th birthday in June, I invite you to join me in a bit of Lenten meditating.

Prophets are rare creatures. In Lent, we should strive to hear them, be kind and open. Try to understand that beneath their sometime outer hardness and obstinacy is an acute sensitivity and tenderness, a genuine openness to God's spirit.

To A Prophet Dying Young

It wasn't easy knowing you or even hearing you. I felt, iin fact, that you were often strong-willed, uncharitable and impolite.

I saw you pouring out your life. I resented that, too, as I safely clutched my own. Yes, I heard the criticism and on occasion even joined in. When I opposed you it was because what you said and did cut painfully against my mask, security and sense of being. The truth is I miss you very much. You wouldn't want me to wish you "peace" in any conventional way. Frankly, I could never think of you iin any misalliance with a false truth or easy compromise.

Yet I do, with alll my heart, wish you peace with deep restlessness, a cock crowing at dawn to announce battle and love to heal the necessary wounds.

To A Prophet Dying Old

You had mellowed, they all said, before you died. I question what I know they meant by "mellowed." Softened to the point of atrophy? Sold out for final honors? Quit keeping up with new thoughts and, indeed, thinking them?

I saw and heard you the week before you died. You were as exasperating as ever to everything in me that wanted to be complacent. You rubbed me the wrong way when you bore down, ungraciously I felt and with unneeded force on some highly sensitive areas in my life. You tenaciously caught hold of some issues we just don't talk about.

In other words, you were as independent, strong-willed, unelenting and saintly as always. You made my blood flow faster, nettled my slumbering conscience, opened up my caved-in thoughts and dragged me outside my wall-to-wall carpeted ghetto. Where did this lead? To involvement with raw sunlight, new ideas and raw commitments.

Damn it, I wanted you to leave me alone. Yes, I resented you and your coming. When you forced me to look honestly as myself and my world, you shook me hard once again. I must admit this was needed. But that didn't mean I liked it. The embers of old fires still burned me when, seeking comfort and release, I came too close.