Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hog-wallow

The question is how to get from lament to praise.  In the Psalms, it's all one smooth rhythm. There is no sense that it takes the lamenter any time at all to move from grief or anger to praise and gratitude. The human condition tells me otherwise, though.  I'm certain that some of those Psalms took hours, days, even months to finish.  It is not an easy movement, if it's an authentic one, to surrender pain, to say, "Even in this will I praise you."  We can get discouraged reading those Psalms of lament if we think we're so much slower (the word retarded is the proper word here--retard meaning slow) in making the movement from lament to praise than the 'truly Godly.' But God alone knows how much time it takes, how much broken-heartedness it takes, for us to take joy.  "Weeping may last all through the night, but joy comes in the morning."  How long is a night of weeping to God?

This is not, of course, license to wallow in the pain or anger or frustration or resentment or whatever other negative feeling one has. Certainly not to the point of allowing it to fester, turn gangrene and infect my very soul, so that the rotten place must be amputated.  It only means that the movement is a process, a journey (as Beve so often reminds me) and the speed can not be pre-determined, at least not by me.  God is more patient with that process than I am, of course.  The process of moving away from lament to praise is almost never set by the length of time it takes to read a Psalm of lament.  Would that I could move away from whatever is troubling me so quickly.  I open my Bible to, say, Psalm 27 (which is one of my default laments), when I am really struggling with the ongoing battle of pain and the consequential battle with feeling somewhat (or a whole lot) useless.  I read, "To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock...For if you remain silent I will be like those who go down to the pit."  At the slow pace of lecto divino, it takes me just over a minute to read the Psalm.  1 minute and 15 seconds, to be precise.  And...yes, I feel better when I reach the lovely, hopeful words at the end, "for He has heard my cry for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him and He helps me..." but it will take more reading.
And more quiet, and more reading, and more listening, and more...to move in earnest with the Psalmist, not merely in word but in heart.
The essential question isn't of time, but of desire.  Am I seeking that journey, that movement toward joy, or do I actually want to sit in the hog-wallow of whatever the lament is?  Am I seeking God through the tears I shed in the watches of the night, no matter how long, in earth's chronos, those watches are?  Am I leaning toward joy?  Or taking perverse pride in that pity-party of a hog-wallow?  Doesn't the dawn of gratitude begin somewhere even in the darkest, most pain-filled hours of the night?

This, I think, is the movement toward which every lament is aiming.  The word, of course, is HOPE.  Even when my body feels like crap (excuse the language, but the Psalmists sometimes are extremely graphic, you know), there is Hope.  Even when everything seems lost and darkness is spread out like a muddy cape across the hog-wallow of your life, there is a sliver of light somewhere on the horizon.  If you only face the right direction.  That hope, that direction, is His Son.  The person who has His Son has life.  He or she who doesn't have the Son, has only a hog-wallow." (I'm pretty sure that's the actual Greek).

Beve found this contemporary lament of sorts yesterday, thought I'd written it, but I can't credit for it, though no longer remember the author:
My Lord,
I have mistreated you all my Christian life.
I have treated you like a servant.
When I wanted you, I called for you;
when I was about to engage in some work,
I beckoned you to come and help
Me perform my task.
I have kept you in the place of a servant;
I have sought to use you only as a willing
servant to help me in my
self-appointed and chosen work.
I shall do so no more.
Just now I give you this body of mine;
from my head to my feet, I give it to you.
I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes,
my lips, my brain;
All that I am within and without.
I hand over to you for you to live
in it the life that you please;
You may send this body to Africa,
or lay it on a bed with cancer;
You may blind the eyes, or send
me with your message to Tibet.
You may take this body to the Eskimos,
or send it to a hospital with pneumonia.
It is your body from this moment on.
Help yourself to it.
Thank you, my Lord.
I believe you accepted it.
We now belong to each other.

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