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Penitent's Prayer
Penitent's Prayer
Meditation

It is an hour before sunrise. The waves keep coming, but each minute they make less progress than the minute before. As the tide goes out, the beach is exposed—a million pebbles just visible in the lifting of night, a periwinkle clinging to a rock, a horseshoe crab scrambling to catch the receding ocean—and I am exposed in all my hurts and frailties. My composure drains away with the tide, and the disheveled beach mirrors the ragged edges of my soul. The whole bay is my confessional, the breath of dawn my confessor.

I have been so consumed with my own hurts that I’ve forgotten to call a friend whose hurt is equal to my own. I put off doing those things that might bring healing to someone who is broken, or joy to someone who is sad, or compassion to someone who is at odds with the rhythm of life, because I cared more for my own loneliness. I refused the hand of one who reached out to me, clinging instead to old familiar ways. I chose to remain stuck inside a problem, rather than ask for help to solve it.

I pray that some benevolent spirit has listened to my heart’s despair and judged me not. At the edge of the clouds a rim of cream appears. Night creeps away with my guilt beneath its cloak. Dawn sprinkles absolution, the earth has kept its promise. Forgiveness is at hand.

About the Author

  • The Rev. Elizabeth Tarbox (1944–1999) served congregations in Middleborough and Cohasset, Massachusetts. She is the author of Evening Tide: Meditations (Skinner House, 1998). Evening Tide: Meditations

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