The psalms are the language that God has given the church to pray, to sing, to speak his language back to him. Each Sunday, we have one psalm as a centerpiece of our worship time together at WIts' End. During this series of reflections on the Lectionary Psalms we will hear from people in our community as they think and pray through the upcoming psalm for that week.
This week's reflection is from Peggy Hobbs, who is currently active in our community as one of the curators of Epiphany. Her honesty and trust in God is inspiring and her faith has a tendency to draw others in. The psalm for this week is Psalm 119:1-8.
It seems that the Psalms characteristically do this to me. Pulling me to places of joy and despair simultaneously. How dare they? But yet, I thank God for the Psalms. They speak to my experience. They are drenched with both the pain and joy of life. They are the ballads of worship from our spiritual mothers and fathers who have walked this journey of life before us. Again, thank God for the Psalms.
Upon my first reading of the psalm, I experienced joy and relief. Especially for the righteous and holy parts of myself that I undoubtedly would like to feel and think that I am, all the time.
Upon the second reading I experienced a sinking and heavy feeling – Ugh. These are deep words. There is a huge sense of urgency and truth to this section. Yet these “directions” if you will, take years (and more years) not only to understand, but more importantly, to experience. God help me.
Blessed are… those whose way is blameless (Damn it).
Blessed are… those who keep his testimonies (Sometimes?).
Blessed are… those who seek him with their whole heart (My whole heart? Really?!).
Wow. This Psalm may not be for me. I don’t relate. I hardly know what those things mean. Yet, a break (for me) comes in this Psalm.
Verse 5 – “Oh, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!”
Did I hear a breath of heaviness? Perhaps mixed with a sense of relief? Maybe just groaning? Or was that just me? When I say or breathe “Oh”, there are bubbling emotions and lively senses that come with it. Oh no! Oh yes! Oh…
Perhaps there can be breathed a long, slow sigh of relief while reading this Psalm: “Oh, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” Help me God. I’m trying. I live with this desire! This is my cry and my praise.
Perhaps there can also be a long slow sigh of heaviness and despair while reading this Psalm: “Oh, that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” Help me God. I don’t know what this means. You require much. This is my cry and my praise.
There seems to be room on the spectrum for feelings of relief to feelings of despair. The psalm ends with, “I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!”
The psalmist or better put, the sojourner, seems to want to continue on in this difficult and holy journey with God. Ok, God. I will praise you as I continue to learn of who you are. This seems serious, and I will praise you in my sense of relief and I will praise you in my heaviness and despair.
Also, God – do not abandon me. This would be too much. I will struggle with your law and with your righteousness, but do not forget me in this struggle. This would be death.
I sit with a sense of pain and joy, realizing the weight of praise and wisdom and the journey of those who walk in the way of the Lord. It is not an easy journey.
Thank God for the Psalms.