8:57 p.m. The Office of Readings are a little rough today. Making my way through the Psalms was at first consoling and then I came to a full stop with Jeremiah. I should know better than to expect warm and fuzzy from a prophet.

"You scoured the side roads for lovers, like a nomad in the desert. You polluted the countryside with your lust and your vices." (Jeremiah 3:2) Ouch indeed.

Praying with these verses, I am reminded that just because I have not been scouring the side roads for a lover does not mean that God is not speaking a good word to me.

It can be easy to dismiss Scripture as applying only to "those people," yet God's word is a living word, addressing me and us here and now. When allow these words to marinate within me, I recognize myself. I recognize that I have gone down paths that stray from my deepest self, from the God in whom I live and move and have my being. I have engaged people, ideas, behaviors, and habits that reveal a "hardness of heart" (4:4) on my part and perhaps even a "refusal to blush in shame" (3:3). Dramatic words maybe for ordinary slip-ups in life, yet I suppose even these make me less of who I am, less of the person I want to be in God.

For as direct and condemning as Jeremiah's words may be in today's Divine Office, the prophet does not fail to encourage us. Jeremiah reminds us of just who our God is -- a God who, while understandably bummed out by our hardness of heart and penchant for "odious idols" (4:1), is still reaching out to us and calling us home, calling us to our best selves.

"Return to me ...
Plow your fallow ground ...
Do not sow among thorns ...
Dedicate yourselves completely to me ...
Remove the hardness of your hearts." (4:1,3,4)

It's never too late to lean into the great tenderness of our God.