Thursday, March 26, 2009

If

"But you, Sovereign Lord,
help me for your name's sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow...
Help me, Lord my God;
save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, Lord, have done it."      Psalm 109: 21-27

The Psalms, I have long known, have a rhythm to them that I need in my life.  Within them, they contain the breadth of human experience.  Feeling full of joy?  There's Psalm 100.  Need to repent? Psalm 51 is the location for that.  Need to be reminded that you belong to Him, have been created purposely? Psalm 139.  These are the easy ones to find.  But on a daily basis, as I read each in its turn, I'm moved by how the life of the Psalmist mirrors mine.  Sometimes needing to be in His presence, sometimes with so much anger within, that I--like him--want to curse my enemies.  And some days, when I open the Word to my attached gold-bookmark, I read the Psalm and am stunned by how the words fit my mood, can say what my heart feels better than my own vocabulary.

Lately, I have barely had voice to speak what I've felt.  Last night, gathering with a group of friends, we went around the room, answering the question of how we and God are doing together.  I was loathe to speak, didn't want to open myself up to the well-intentioned, loving scrutiny of my friends.  I barely admit to myself the unhealed wounds I'm living with, the distance I feel from God.  But, haltingly, reluctantly, I did speak. I told of the sense of purposelessness I feel, the way the future stretches out in front of me, but I can't see what's in it, what my life will be about.  And, more specifically, I cannot hear God.  And that has led me to wonder if I deluded myself in the past about what I believed was His voice.  Was I wrong to feel called to write?  If not for my theology, at this particular moment (as one friend put it), I could simply say, "Well, I tried that and it didn't work out."  But because I honestly felt--still believe--that God gave me this purpose, that it is for Him, by Him and because of Him, that I began this writing venture, it becomes also a theological issue when confronted with a dead end.  And that, I'm sorry to say, is the door into all kinds of more fundamental doubts.

Yet, every lament in the Psalms, every cry of the Psalmist, leads to God.  It is God alone whom I can both point my finger to, and run to for the answers.  If I struggle, I struggle with Him, not alone in the dark.  I choose, day in and day out, to confront Him--even when He seems silent--with the truth of my confusion, and with the bottom line TRUTH on which I stake my life.

And this is that truth, the same truth the Psalmist eventually gets to, no matter how meandering the way:  I might wonder if I hear Him, if I ever did, if I ever will.  I might question my purpose, my very being.  But in the darkest hours of the night, I come to the Incarnation, to the man who was God, and I do not doubt Him.  I believe, so deeply, it creates a crater in the middle of my doubts, that the man Jesus is who He said He was.  He is God.  There is no other.  I may question and struggle with every single thing around that: what is church, why do Christians behave just as non-Christians do, why can't we all get along.  But I come back to Jesus, and am saved.  Don't ask me why I am so certain.  Some days, I couldn't summon up the answer to it (except that He who lives inside of me feeds that certainty).  But I am sure.  I stake my life, as meager and useless as it seems to me right now, on the gospel.  "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him," says Job.  If Jesus is who I believe He is, then I trust Him. Whether in the dark when I cannot see or in the glowing light of joy, it makes no difference.  If Jesus is God, my life is His. Bought by His death, rebirthed by His resurrection.

So I speak these words of Psalm 109 with an overflowing heart--overflowing with equal shares of doubt and certainty.  Let them know--let all the world know--that YOU have done it.  Deliver me, save me according to your unfailing Love.  And keep on saving me, every blessed day.

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