psalm 13. or o god, where are you?

A shrouded pathwhile the waiting continues, i must journey through some rocky terrain.  the job i anxiously awaited did not come into my favor.  that alone is a disappointment—one that heals quickly—yet there is more that ushers in sadness.  a series of events, seemingly falling on top of me in succession has left me confused and disoriented.  it is a season of sadness that will pass.  this i know.  but i wonder, as the psalmist does, “how long, o lord? will you forget me forever?

how long must i wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? how long will my enemy triumph over me?

i do have selfish, negative thoughts.  i fight daily to purge them from my body and mind.  this is why i feel the psalmists cries in psalm 13.  somehow the genuine sadness and grief, and confusion of relationships has turned in on itself and become distorted.

its not solely concerning myself—someone i hold dear to my heart has been violated.  and a friend’s mother has died. i weep for her, i weep for her future, i weep for my friend and his loss, and i hope.  i hope for the justice only god can bring.  but i wonder, as another friend did recently, where is god sometimes?

and i turn to sufjan stevens to accompany me, as he sings, “o god, where are you now?  o lord, say somehow. the devil is hard on my face again.  the world is a hundred to one again.  would the righteous still remain.  would my body stay the same.  o god, hold me now.  o lord, touch me now.  there’s no other man who could save the dead.  there’s no other god to place our head…”

the psalm ends with hope.  that’s where i end, too.

but i trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  i will sing to the lord, for he has been good to me.

amen. so say we all.

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Absolution

Harboring an emotion, we cling to it.  Instead of seizing its energy to face a challenge, we bog down. Rather than using the arousal to confront a threat, we mull it over.  A harbored emotion becomes chronic, corroding our insides and spoiling our relationships with others.

— Evelyn Eaton Whitehead & James D. Whitehead in Shadows of the Heart: A Spirituality of the Painful Emotions

This is what I have done.  For reasons that seemed logical to me at the time, I harbored emotions; and in spite of what I thought were efforts to expel them in healthy ways, these emotions remained bottled up.  Why?  Because I didn’t express them to those that mattered. And in its wake it has hurt others and crushed my spirit.  I thank God that at the moment I am not anyone’s spiritual director, as I haven’t been in a state to be fully present with others.

Finally the harbored thoughts and feelings—however true or warped they may have been—have found their way out.  Unfortunately, I chose the path of explosive emotion, rather than honest confrontation.  Rage seeped into my body, a complex knot of the entirety of my life’s frustrations turned sour.  This is beyond anger and leads to door slamming, pounding the cupboards, and throwing of objects.  Instead of saying what I really needed to say, I tucked that way, allowing it to become buried under a pile of my own depressive thoughts.  The kind of thoughts and emotion that although have a grain of truth, become mulled over too much to the point where absolutes strike (e.g. “No one will ever love you”).

Life goes on.  I’m trying to renew and seek reconciliation and absolution, freeing the harbored emotions.  This morning, as I write and sip my coffee I take a few deep breaths…to appreciate the day (Friday!), and to give thanks for community and human relationality, expressions of God’s presence among us.  I know that I am forgiven, washed clean. I know that I am loved.

Psalm 51:1-12 (NRSV)

1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.
5Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6You desire truth in the inward being;*
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right* spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing* spirit.

Light Within My Darkness

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“In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Albert Camus

Barely past 5pm these days and already darkness falls here in Seattle. The winter darkness can be cold and lonely. I am reminded of the suffering of humanity, those who suffer depression, and the wounds of my own past. Yet also the winter can be a time for quiet contemplation and inner light. I’ve been thinking about this recently as I search for my own inner light amid a dark night of the soul. For me, some places in my journey have been dark, and at times terrifying. It is my faith that has sustained me; God is my light in dark times. In those times of darkness and winter, I did, as Camus said, find an invincible summer.

Today I found myself drawn to Psalm 13. It’s a lament that wonders, “how long?” How long must this sorrow in my heart continue? At the end, however, the writer sings to the LORD. I asked God this morning how long…how long must I hold this sorrow within? I doubt there will be an answer. What else is there to do but continue to walk the journey of life with hope for healing.Thomas R. Kelley in his book, A Testament of Devotion, writes,

“Meister Eckhart wrote, ‘As thou art in church or cell, that same frame of mind carry out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness.’ Deep witin us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice to which we may continuousy return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with imitations of an astounding destiny, calling home into Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life.

Many times I have had to return to this inner sanctuary of the soul for healing. This light within has healed me and as a spiritual director I can walk with others in the healing process. This night I pray with a song, written by Sue Wallace in England (and arranged on a new CD from my church community, details forthcoming). It speaks to the healing within myself and what can happen in others:

Light within my darkness
Hope within my pain,
Truth within confusion
Let me live again.
Set me free,
O my Jesus
O my Jesus
Rescue me

warmth within my coldness
joy within my tears
peace within my anger
courage in my fear
set me free,
oh my Jesus
oh my Jesus
Rescue me

Praying a Psalm for Justice

This Psalm came in my inbox this morning, as part of a subscription for a daily Bible reading through the ELCA.  I pray this Psalm today,  as my heart and mind are praying for the people of Burma (Days of non-violent protest in the streets, led by Buddhist monks were met with violence by the ruling military…it’s not over yet).   To pray this is a challenge, as I find it difficult to praise God today, when I look around and see such horrible things.   Kyrie Eleison!

 Psalm 146

Justice to the oppressed

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!