The Reassurance of the Psalms

March 12, 2008

You know, a place where we can see some real need and some real reassurance expressed is in the Psalms. For some reason this week, Psalm 38 and 39 were really talking to me. The Psalms give us so much freedom to just BE REAL. To be honest about how we are really doing with God.

Take a look at Psalm 38 – this is in verse 9 to 10, “Lord, all that I long for is known to you, my sighing is no secret from you; my heart is throbbing, my strength deserting me, the light of my eyes itself has left me.”

Dang. This is bad. It goes on like this for a while, too – and then look at the end of the Psalm – verse 21, “Lord, do not desert me, do not stand aside, my God./Come quickly to my help, Lord, my savior.” That’s it. That’s the end of the Psalm. Notice that it does not end by saying, Thank you Lord for coming! There ARE Psalms that end like this, but not this one.

It’s the same with Psalm 39, too – look at the end of that one – at verse 12, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for help, do not stay deaf to my crying. I am your guest, and only for a time, a nomad like all my ancestors. Look away, let me draw breath, before I go away and am no more.” Nice ending, huh? But you can see, that last bit there, the Psalmist is just crying out from her heart. Listen to me Lord! Hear my prayer! I’m talking to you! Feel that emotion.  It’s intense.
All this EMOTION in the Psalms – like the FEELING of wanting some situation to just DISAPPEAR – or feeling like God has just up and Forgotten you COMPLETELY, all that is all in there. I think there might be some Christians – with good intentions, I’m sure – who might tell us we’re should only be grateful and sweet and good inside, because we’ve been saved, right? but that just isn’t a reality God is holding us to, always being sweet inside. Obviously, we should always be grateful to God, but that doesn’t mean that is the ONLY emotion we are ever going to have towards him, or bring to him. That’s just not a reality we have modeled for us in the Bible.

The Psalms are very honest. They are also full of trust – sometimes in the Psalms, we’re waiting for God to act, but not quite seeing it yet. I hope I can communicate this – that actually DEFINES faith – waiting for God to act, and not quite seeing it yet. That’s what Hebrews 11 is saying when it says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is a HUGE part of walking with God. Just waiting some stuff out. Just trusting that something is going on in heaven on our behalf, even though we can’t see ANYTHING happening at the moment. That’s part of why these Psalms are here. To reassure us again. This is how it is sometimes in life with God. But hold tight. Hold tight. God knows who we are and what we need.


The Reassurance of the Garden Narrative

March 10, 2008

Take a look at this little bit of Genesis 3:

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that God had made.  It asked the woman, “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?  The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden.  But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death”.’  Then the serpent said to the woman, “Die? You will not die!  God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”  The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give.  So she took some of its fruit and ate it.  She gave some also to her husband who was with her and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened.

Doesn’t it seem like the story of God and man and woman should have started off a little better?  I don’t know, maybe a little more reverent and worshipful, like, Oh, God, you’re so awesome, thank you so much for creating us, we’ll do whatever you say!  But instead, our story starts with us doing something completely wacky and wrong, eating from that tree we weren’t supposed to. I love what Ecclesiasticus says about this:
God made people in the beginning, and then left them free to make their own decisions.
God left us free to make our own decisions.  What a trusting God.  It’s kinda crazy, if you ask me.  Because look what Adam and Eve go and do with that decision making power.   Oops.

And there are some pretty serious consequences to this, if we kept on reading in Genesis 3, we have a list of all those consequences.   But what is AMAZING is that God is not just like, you know what? Forget you.  I gave you this opportunity to please me, make good decisions, and you sucked, so now we are not friends anymore.  Buh-bye.  No. If that’s what had happened, um, there would not be the rest of this book.

I think part of the point of this story is to help us see that this is just part of how we are – we LEAN in this direction that makes keeping God’s instructions something that takes REAL EFFORT.  I know that might sound bad – like – ooh – we are all made sinful and bad – but – even though that’s true – I think there is another piece of this story that gets overlooked.  Because really, this story IS reassuring.  I’m not going to ask for a show of hands or anything – but let me ask you, seriously – Don’t you struggle sometimes to follow God’s heart, God’s instructions?  I know I do.  I’ll gladly raise my hand.  I struggle  A LOT.  This story is here for a lot of reasons, but one of them is to reassure us: It’s not just you.  All your people are like this.  From the beginning.

And guess what?  God still keeps on walking with us.  For an entire life’s worth of stuff.  An entire Bible’s worth of people’s disobediences.

God keeps hoping that we will see that it would be better if we didn’t try to do it our own way.  We’re like Eve, we look, and see that something LOOKS good – after all, it says there right in the Book– she looked, and saw that it was pleasing and desirable – but if God has asked us specifically not to do that thing that looks pleasing and desirable – really – it will go much better for us if we stay away from it.  Whatever it might be.

The other day, I was thinking about doing something totally rotten.  I mean really, really rotten, something totally against God’s heart.   I was super, super mad at someone.  This person was being really horrible to people that I love.  And so, you know, super mature Christian that I am – I wanted them to suffer.  And this was on my mind a lot.  By a lot, I mean, um, all the time.  Nice, huh?  (I know, it’s nice.)

What was I doing?  I was going completely against God’s word.  How many times does God tell us in the Bible not to judge?  HE is the judge.  Of everybody. I was thinking that I was the judge.  But God is the judge.  Not me.  I was just like Eve. I was all backwards.  God knows that what I need in this area is not to punish this person, but to be free from worrying about it.

God knew who Eve and Adam were and what they needed.  And God knows us and what we need.

This is reassurance.


Life is wierd, Part One Thousand

March 7, 2008

The other day I called my old seminary up to get the contact information for a few of my old professors.  I got the first number, and then when I asked about the second name, the lady on the other end of the phone got kind of quiet.

“Oh, ” she said, “Scott Becker died.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I know that sounds like the dumbest cliche, but really, my mind couldn’t process what she said.  I stumbled and said something lame, and she told me he had passed away in September.  September!  I started to cry a little.  This was one of the few professors at Fuller whose classes I really enjoyed.  He was creative and interesting and incredibly fair to all his students.  Also, he was just a genuinely sweet guy.  I had tried, about a year and a half ago, to get together with him and his wife, but it never worked out.

I’m so sad that the world no longer has this particular spirit in it.  I am also disappointed in myself that I didn’t try a little harder to connect with him and his wife after graduation – now there is no more opportunity to know him at all.  It’s all gone.  I can’t even imagine how his wife is feeling.  Last night my husband and I were praying, and I was praying for her.  For some reason, the scripture “he will never leave you or forsake you” came to my mind.  Somehow, that is true, even for Scott’s wife.  I don’t know her well enough to ask her how she is, or if she’s feeling left, or forsaken by God these days.  I imagine I would feel very left and forsaken.

I’m sorry if this post is a little maudlin, but it was this or another meditation on the craziness of the pets.  The cat actually HIT me last night because I was playing with his back foot in a way that he didn’t like.  His claws were in and he just hit me on the wrist, WACK!  I was surprised at how much force is in a little kitty paw.