Lectio THEN: Psalm 5 (June 5, 2009) New Jerusalem Bible
“spare a thought for my sighing”
For almost my entire life, this has been how I have felt about prayer – that I have to beg a busy and important God to “spare a thought” for me as I hold out a battered tin can hoping for a copper coin to be tossed in as he rushes by. Like a potty-trained child who keeps wetting the bed, I imagine God to be exasperated with me and fed up that I still haven’t learned to trust and let go.
I know this is my old version of God, the cold, imposing, detached, white marble man. But right now God’s warm kitchen with boysenberry pie feels so fuzzy and cloudy. I feel so rushed this morning; I know I’m not attending properly to God’s presence. I’m so preoccupied with a million other things. My heart is so gripped with anxiety and fear that I can hardly breathe.
God, “make your way plain before me” — the way back to you and into your presence.
Lectio NOW: Psalm 5 (October 5, 2010) NJB
I am a morning person. I love being up before the sun. I love the silence at that time of day just before darkness fades away, and the world outside becomes more clear and more apparent in the light of day. It’s a hopeful thing for me and reminds me that God’s mercies are “new every morning”.
The end of verse 3, and into verse three declares “to you I pray, Yahweh. At daybreak you hear my voice”. I’ve learned that if I don’t pray in the morning, I won’t pray at all. I’m sure that’s not true for everyone. I know others for whom the late night is their sacred time, just as my morning is for me. But as much as I love the morning, and I love praying in the morning, sometimes I don’t do it. And then I spend much of the rest of the day telling myself how undisciplined I am, how fickle I am, how selfish I am, etc.
In the first readings of this psalm, the general shape I saw was this: listen to my prayers (v. 1-2), I know you’ll listen to me because I’m righteous and you don’t like the wicked (v. 4-6), but you’re wonderful and you will save me from them (v. 7-8), you should banish them because they’re evil (v. 9-10), but I know you’ll protect the righteous (v. 11-12).
I guess old habits die hard. Whenever I hear “a psalm of David”, I imagine him pleading his case of (dubious) innocence in a very “us vs. them” way. But it’s this that makes me remember to read myself into both parts. I’m not wholly righteous either. I love the wisdom of the wizards in both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter that says that we all have both good and evil, both light and dark inside of us.
Even with that understanding, that we’re all a mixed bag, I can still be awfully hard on myself. I’m likely to indict myself with the same scathing words of verses 9-10 “not a word from their lips can be trusted… lay the guilt on them… make their intrigues their downfall… thrust them from you.”
And then, on another reading, just as I’m about to go down that rabbit hole of self-hatred, the emphasis of verse seven shifts as I read it “But, so great is your faithful love, even I may come into your house,” (emphasis mine). Even I! mess that I am, I may come into God’s house, even if I don’t pray in the morning or at all! It has nothing to do with my own righteousness or lack thereof. It’s about God’s faithfulness. I know this. It’s what I would say to anyone who claims to be unworthy of approaching God. But I quite forget to say it to myself. Very often I forget.
A few days ago I finished reading Joan Chittister’s book “Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today”, given to me by my dear friend Melanie. One of the greatest pearls gleaned from my reading of it is the admonition to be gentle. To be gentle with others, gentle with creation, gentle with ourselves. And as I was praying through this psalm, that was the reminder that I heard. Be gentle.
God, help me to remember to be gentle. I’m a disaster when I spend all my energies in self-deprecation. Though I find it so much easier to be gentle with others, and gentle with your creation, I’m no good elsewhere if I’ve disabled myself through such abuse. Help me to savor the gentleness that I receive from you through others and through your creation, so that I might overflow with your goodness into the world around me.