Archive for the ‘psalm 42’ Category

Dear God, I Hate You. Love RJW

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I can’t bear to watch the news these days.

GOP win in Massachusetts. (There goes health care reform).

Massive aftershock in Haiti.

Eight people in Virginia killed in a domestic dispute.

I know some of you will be appalled at my saying this: But I loathe much of what passes itself off as praise music these days. I’m not much in the mood for one of those little happy, sunshine ditties. God is good, yes. God is great, yes. Dance to the Lord. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vapid.

Did you know that the largest single category of psalms is Psalms of Lament  (e.g., Psalm 142)?  Psalms of Disorientation. Psalms of Hurt and Hisappointment. Psalms of Grief and Outpouring of one’s pain. Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggeman, in an article entitled “The Costly Loss of Lament,” argues that by bypassing lament for praise we have become like “yes people” surrounding the one in charge, always speaking as we think we should so that we can stay close to power.  This loss, leads to a faith that is unable to deal with the real, messy, paradoxical reality of life.

Of course, behind every lament is hidden praise. I rail at you God because I believed in your goodness.  I scream in pain because in hope that you’re listening.  I threaten to walk away trusting that you will come after me.

Admit it: The real point of a psalm like Psalm 42 doesn’t sing well in a praise chorus. So, Psalm 42 isn’t a psalm that gets much song time in our churches.  Listen to some of it: “My tears have been my food day and night” “why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?”

I’m as guilty as the rest of leading the congregation in chants of “God IS good.” But looking around, sometimes God is so good to a few of us that God seems uncaring and cruel to the rest of us …

Don’t let me scare off some of my faithful readers with my unorthodox ramblings. (Experience has taught me that God can take criticism and honest inquiry; it’s humans who has no stomach for truth telling.)

I’ll just reach for one of those old long meter hymns folks usedta sing in the old church.  Talk about wrangling with the Lord. You gotta appreciate the honest public debate and dialogue with God we see evidenced in some of the music produced back in the day. “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee.” “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.”  “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

The Desert Place

Friday, February 29th, 2008

There is a false and persistent myth that strong people are persistently, perpetually, perennially strong. That creative people are persistently, perpetually, perennially, creative. That people of faith are persistently, perpetually, perennially faithful. These people, so the myth goes, never run out of steam. Never have dry spells. Never experience self-doubt. Never contemplate giving up.

Such people do not exist.

The truth is there are days, weeks, yes even seasons, when the soul is on empty.  Though deadlines loom, your mailbox is full, a new battle awaits you, your readers wonder where you’ve gone, the phone is ringing, and dirty clothes are piled high in the basket, you’re in a drought.

If it weren’t for the many psalms of lament in the Bible, I don’t know if I would have remained a Christian. It’s good to know that when I feel emotionally, spiritually and intellectually adrift, I’m in good company. It helps to know that I have not disappointed God when I feel empty and not up to the next task. God knows. Psalm 42 is my favorite psalm in the bible because I can empathetically imagine the psalter mumbling the words to the psalm to herself in a blues-like fashion as she kneads the bread for an upcoming ceremonial observance or as she gets up that morning to dress to sing in the choir.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

These things I remember
       as I pour out my soul:
       how I used to go with the multitude,
       leading the procession to the house of God,
       with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
       among the festive throng.

  Why are you downcast, O my soul?
       Why so disturbed within me?
       Put your hope in God,
       for I will yet praise the Lord, 
       my Savior and my God.

Thank God, droughts are seasonal. They are not forever, even though they feel like they are here to stay. Even though they make you think that you’ll never be strong again, that your creativity was a sham, and that faith is futile and everyone knows it except you. Don’t believe your drought.

Find some water somewhere and keep moving.

Turn off the computer. Unplug the phone. Go for a walk. Take a long drive. Read a book.  Hold a baby. Take a salsa class. Take a long bath. Kneel at the side of the bed. Put on some music that makes you cry. I did. I’m feeling better already. So good, “I believe I’ll run on and see what the end’s gonna be.”