Tuesday, August 30, 2011


"Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you... hold not your peace at my tears... Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!" - David in Psalm 39.

I thought I'd write another cheerful entry. You're welcome! Let's talk about how futile life is. It's coming straight from the lips of David, so I'm in good company.

David has this amazing ability to both state, very matter-of-factly, that his hope is in the Lord AND he also wants the Lord to leave him alone. Confusing? David's talks with God are a constant riddle for me with my simplistic models for relating to God. But maybe they shouldn't be such a riddle.

Riddling as they are, I'm so grateful for David's words. They're God approved and they express way more than I'm often willing to express. They're pretty fearless. Who of us, in our struggles will ask God to "depart from us". And at the same time they are full of God-fear. David knows that God is his hope. God is his only rescuer.

Does holy fear characterise me? Do I recognize the futility of world-life and world-fear that makes me qualify my prayers. Do I recognize that this means that I have to be really honest with God? Or am I so caught up in "Dear Lords" and "Dear Heavenly Fathers" (as if I'm composing a letter) that I forget to just scream out in desperation.

I think it's something that the biggest book of prayer in scripture is written in poetry. (Of course it doesn't rhyme, has no meter and we really have not much idea of how it works. Maybe they had a special ancient Hebrew beatnyk style for it. I can see them with their huge scraggledy beards and pipes, or whatever they smoked back then, popping their heads to a rythm while chanting the verses. I have no idea what I'm writing about. Can you even pop your head to a rythm? What does that even mean?) But doesn't poetry go beyond words. I think it does, and that's why I rarely read or write it. I like hiding behind the safe words - the words I can understand anyways. Modern poetry kind of makes me mad for its fancy-panciness.

But poetry is evocative and in it we hear David expressing what we all feal but so rarely say. I'm glad he does it so I don't have to. Imagine with me what it'd be like if people prayed like this today: A pastor gets up and yells, "Lord have mercy! I have nowhere to go and you are torturing me! But I'm still hoping in you! And I'm hoping you won't use thum-screws again! Help me not to totally blow it this morning. Amen." Or a friend offers to pray for you over something that's been bothering you: "Oh Lord, the one who's made everything, we know that life is so short that we're basically a dust-mist, but while Philip is hear, this tiny speck of dust, give him your presence, lest he blow away forever, out into the cosmos, never to be heard of again. Amen."

Some of you may be thinking that I'm just focusing on the plaintive Psalms, and I am, but I'll let you imagine how crazy the Psalms of praise would be, not to mention the depracatory Psalms - the ones asking God to SMITE! Fun!

I say all of this this morning, because I need David's voice in my life. It validates my feeling that we shouldn't rehearse all our prayers, or trivialize the relationship of prayer. We're to pour out our hearts in prayer. That's why my favorite prayer these days is "Waaaaaaaaaaaaa! Amen"

Note on picture: for some reason I picture Clint Eastwood doing a good job of Ancient Hebrew Beatnik. It's a stretch I know, but I really, really like this picture, and it seems to fit in a weird way.

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