Sunday, July 20, 2014

Psalmody Psunday: 143

I've frequently said that God uses my procrastination, amidst everything else--I could not hope to count the times when I've done Bible study homework last-minute, had to restart a reading plan, or otherwise read or heard teaching after I was "supposed to" only to find that the timing, in the end, was perfect. As I turn to Psalm 143 to catch up on last week's PsPs (a week behind my cousin and my brother), my knee-jerk reaction is the opposite: Man, I really needed this a week ago.

But the jerk barely releases when I realize no, I need this now. I need this when perspective allows a slightly better view, when the emotions are running a little less over the banks. I think, had I read this psalm last Sunday, it would have been too fresh, too hard.

"The enemy pursues me,
   he crushes me to the ground;
He makes me dwell in the darkness
   like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me..."     (vv. 3-4)

If ever there were some words to describe it, these would be it. How I would LOVE to make enemies out of the individual frustrations and cruelties of life, but when I give it real thought I know better. With every recent blow, every sucker punch life has dealt lately, this is the song that echoes: pursued, crushed, like the dead, and growing weak and faint--and somewhere an enemy smirking.

This isn't to play the victim card--even in the midst of recent struggles, others are dealing with worse--but the whole idea of PsPs is to dig into the psalm and into self, to expose what's easily masked. So this is where we are.

The image that's kept coming to me lately is that of a frayed cord--the place that's rubbed against an abrasive for so long that all the protective covering has come away, leaving the wire open to the elements, easily sparked, disastrous. Except there's that word in the psalm--"faint"--and that echoes more: open to the elements for so long, even the spark has diminished, losing its current. (This probably isn't how electricity works, but the metaphor holds so play along for me.)

But in all things, God is utterly faithful--even to frayed, exhausted cords. He provides, encourages, insists upon rests and pauses in my life so I stop running to every other thing I can find, and seek Him alone.

"Show me the way I should go,
   for to You I entrust my life.
Recuse me from my enemies, LORD;
   for I hide myself in you."    (vv. 8-9)

When I sleep, the sheet is what my relatives would call "catty-wampus" across me: diagonal across my shoulders, bunched at my calves, feet out in the air. This is not the image that this psalm gives: like a girl who gets cold, this is burrowed, this is triple-wrapped, this is enshrouded and covered and barely room for breath. This is how deep I want to sit, alone in the quiet with just me and Him.

I want this to be physically true, and there have been times in the last few months of struggle when it has been. When I have felt--felt--Him sit with me, buried beneath the raging winds and waves. He is unmistakable in that cool quiet because He is the only one who can take me there.

And, thank God, He doesn't take me there due to my accomplishments or worth. A smile crosses my face as I read the ending--this echoed thought from Isaiah that follows me like a shadow these days:

"For your name's sake, LORD, preserve my life;
   in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble."     (v. 11)

In the end--when He has shown me what He's meant to, pared away from me what was burdening my soul, spoken truth into the hard cracks in my heart--He will bring me out and "lead me on level ground" (v. 10) not because of me, but because of Him.

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