The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
I hear you.
Things in your family aren’t going the way they should. You’re trying to help your siblings navigate trauma but they aren’t always listening. Your marriage is on the rocks and your husband won’t go to therapy with you. There are hospital visits and overnights in the ER. There is chemo. There is surgery. She left you. He got laid off. You haven’t been reading the Bible or going to church and when you do, it makes you sad or angry. Then, the world, too, feels heavy on you and there’s a constant anxiety like white noise under our cups of coffee, movie dates, laundry folding, about what law is going to be passed, or what tweet will be sent, and if joking about nuclear war is just a joke and if people you love will be picked up in raids in the night and shipped in trucks over the border.
Jesus, are you strong for this? Jesus, are you good for this?
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. – Ps 73
I built houses in rural Kentucky for a year with Americorps, sweating all over blisteringly hot tin roofs while the sun cracked open my shoulders and my work boots fought for a grip on the slippery metal. It was so hot, all the time. Hot and damp. I was thirsty for almost a year, thirsty when I unrolled linoleum floors and thirsty when I was wrestling plastic siding and thirsty when I was digging out foundations (for the third time, because it kept raining and the mud kept sliding back in before the cement guy could get in).
I’d bring two Nalgenes out every morning, we’d jam all three of us into the front of the white pickup, and by noon I’d have half of a Nalgene left. I’d be left trying to ration out the rest of it before 5. If I ran out, and we were way rural, working on a project with no running water, that was that. Wait til you get home.
You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. – Ps 68
My favorite story from the Hebrew Bible is the story of the water from the rock. I’ve preached on it several times, and written about it here. The story of refugees, escaped and homeless wanderers having water pulled out of a dry rock in the desert for them is an enchanted story and it sings.
Brueggemann says that the psalms hold the same structure as the Israelite wilderness narrative – trouble, and relief. Lament, salvation, thanksgiving. “The people of Israel,” he says, “perceived their entire existence in the form of petition and thanks” [“From Hurt to Joy, from Death to Life,” 77]. Rhythms of life – suffering, petitioning, relief, praise.
But what exactly happens to move from suffering to relief? Why does the Psalmist move from suffering to joy?
There are a lot of theories for why the psalmists’ turn from petition to praise. Brueggemann lists 5 of them in his short essay. Perhaps the priest has spoken a salvation oracle! Perhaps the name of Yahweh is the transitional moment! Perhaps God speaks words through the priest!
Or perhaps water has burst out of a dry rock.
I wish the modern Western church would lean into these structures of lament and relief. Both for the lament (which I’ve been writing about for the last two weeks of Lent), but also for the naming of a salvation that we didn’t pull of by ourselves, is not logical, and comes from the Lord right at the moment that we realize, in shock, that our resources are spent.
I’ve spent a lot of time and energy planning for how to never need help. I’ve spent a lot of time packing water so that I will never need water from that damn rock.
Refresh my soul (because it is weary)
Make me wise (because I am confused)
Rejoice my heart (because it is heavy)
Give light to my eyes (because my vision is clouded)
Be today my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.– from Ps 19
I would like to spend less time, this Lent, beating myself up for not preparing properly, and more time asking God to save me.
I would like to spend less time trying to prepare for the worst, and more time trusting that when the worst happens, God will draw water out of rocks to revive me.
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. – Ps 61
Lord God, I haven’t rationed properly, and I’ve run out of water.
Be today my Rock.
Be today my Rock, pouring water out on to the dusty ground.
Turn my own inability to properly pack into a gift, the good enchantment of the miracle of water rushing out in an impossible place. Let me see a glimmer of the new Kingdom as You save us, again and again. Because Your living water is more satisfying, and it doesn’t seem to ever stop.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. – Ps 51
You refresh us, and delight us, and wash us, in Your streams of grace that bubble up out of the most unlikely places. You enchant us with Your good magic and give us the courage to get up and pack another bag and keep going.
God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. Amen.