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 brought to us by Andy Ide. Andy has served our community in numerous ways over the years as a Troublemaker and a trusted voice of wisdom. I also hear he can play a mean mandolin–but no pressure! Andy has a masters degree from a Mars Hill Graduate School, and works as a therapist in the area. His reflection is on Psalm 31:9-16.
The second part that stuck out to me was the word "deliver", which appears as the Psalmist beseeches God to "deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me." All who are reading this text do so in the waning days of the Season of Lent, so there is a natural inclination to overlay this text with Christ's movement toward the cross. If we allow Lent to be the parentheses on this text, deliverance does not come through a supernatural intervention in which Christ or anyone else is whisked away--deliverance comes through death. I hear an invitation into the heart of Christ, marked by His enemies, abandoned by friends, crying out for deliverance at Gethsemane. And yet, the Father did not deliver Jesus from His enemies, but unto them.
I was recently with a group of friends and colleagues. Part of the rhythm of our gathering together is to tell stories, with the particular hope of determining the condition of each others' hearts and souls as we prepare to work together. One woman's tale is not unlike the Psalmist. Her story, traced backwards is one of radical hope amidst the ashes of deep harm. She has taken a series of bold, obedient risks over several years, stealthily and persistently moving toward her calling. In the last six months, her last step toward the work she has wept for, bled for and ached for has become an absolute nightmare. Her application for counseling licensure was capriciously denied in her home state where others in her exact same position had encountered rough waters but never a closed door. Her appeals denied out of hand and the response stiffened.
Hopeful and determined advocacy for justice has only served to deepen the nightmare. As evidence has been presented of individuals who did gain licensure in identical situations to hers, the state is now moving to review and revoke previously granted licenses. Amidst this swirling madness, her sense of calling has been bled dry and her identity has nearly fractured. We sat with her in the chasm between verses 11 and 12 over months and months in the unutterable groans, unwilling to manufacture hope and just as unwilling to conscience self-contemptuous assaults on her gifting. Her stand to refuse to curse what God had created in her amidst His seeming absence resounded through me.
The indelible impression of her stance is the only way I can make sense of verses 12-16. The words are not a flight from the nightmare, but a declaration of God's traits back to God. There is a defiance embodied here that says, "You stirred life in me to begin with and I cast my lot with you. I now call your bluff." Toward the end of our time together, I witnessed my friend dream aloud jaw-dropping visions of the healing she will help orchestrate on behalf of others. A defiant dream even as the stench of death still hovers. I join her and call for those responsible for thwarting her return home to feel the shame of their actions; and I am awe-struck as she has refused a forced march into exile, but instead dances a flanking maneuver to mock death.