The rules, for those who are new: pick a psalm (or use this randomly selected one), and write freely for 10 minutes. Analysis, reflection, or let it be a jumping-off point for something nearly unrelated. It's a day of rest--don't stress over the rules.
This week's randomly selected psalm: 115. I am returning to my college-essay-writing roots for this one, bouncing between translations to make my points sound better. I'll give you a moment to process that envy at never having had to proof me.
Opening sidebar: this psalm contains, I think, my favorite slice of sass from the whole collection:
Why let the nations say,
"Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens,
and he does as he wishes.
(vv. 2-3, New Living Translation)
I love that. I love that I don't have to explain the motivations of God. I love that this is the ultimate, Scripture-approved, hands-in-the-air reply. He's doing his thing, that's what he's doing.
Okay, back to what I wanted to talk about. The handful of translations I read circled around this, but I like Eugene (paraphraser-poet of The Message) for opening this line up to more than the specific idols referenced in vv. 4-7. By verse 8, he's drawing a bigger picture which, in this case, I think is appropriate and true to the spirit of the psalm:
Those who make them [the idols] have become just like them,
have become just like the gods they trust.
We become like the god we trust. Ain't it the truth. Yes, certainly, the psalmist is talking about actual, brick-and-mortar idols, carved images of wood or stone or silver. And so the comparison is too perfect not to make: you are becoming just like these lifeless, impotent statues you're falling in front of. But it's true of the idols we carve out in our lives, as well: comfort, or wealth, or a particular dream. And it's true of the misshapen god we press together with our own misconceptions and the lies we've heard.
I created a god when I was about eleven years old. He was a very sensible god, really, and in many ways he resembled the one described in the Judeo-Christian bible, but with a few key differences. Unsurprisingly, these differences bore certain similarities to my biological father, or my perception of him. In short, I crafted a god with human limits, a god who would pursue only for so long. A god who would give up. A god who leaves.
This made a great deal of sense to me, so much so that I clung to this idea of god--trusted it implicitly, in the face of all manner of contrary evidence--for seven years, until the real God brought enough shift and churn and change into my life that this carved god shattered under the pressure. As did I. Like the carved idols the psalmist describes, my god looked beautiful and made sense, but was lifeless. In the awesome (and somewhat Yoda-esque) words of King James' translators,
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet they have, but they walk not:
neither speak they through their throat. (vv. 6-7)
He broke, this god of mine, and that broke me. But like a near-drowned man waking up on a beach, I soon found that the boat I had thought was the whole world was... just a leaky boat. (Does that metaphor work? We'll find out later.)
I still stumble into carved aspects of the god I worship. Something resembling but not altogether like unnecessary prosthetics. I decide that God is or should be or might be a certain different way, and after some amount of time that peg leg I gave him starts to wear or splinter or crack. And I find myself pushing aside the remnants, happily, blessedly finding that there is something better, something more real than my own carvings to trust in. Something that does not break or chip or melt or wear away.