Embers 3: Dissonance...

PSALM 22

1   My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
      Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2   O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
      and by night, but find no rest.
3   Yet you are holy,
       enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4   In you our ancestors trusted;
       they trusted, and you delivered them.
5   To you they cried, and were saved;
       in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6   But I am a worm, and not human;
      scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7   All who see me mock at me;
       they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8   “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver —
        let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9   Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
        you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
         and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
          for trouble is near
          and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me,
          strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
          like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
          and all my bones are out of joint;
          my heart is like wax;
          it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
          and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
          you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
        a company of evildoers encircles me.
        My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
        They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
          and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O LORD, do not be far away!
          O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
          life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
         from the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
          in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
          All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
          stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
          the affliction of the afflicted;
          he did not hide his face from me,
          but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
          my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
          those who seek him shall praise the LORD.          
          May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
          and turn to the LORD;
         and all the families of the nations
         shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the LORD,
          and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
          before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
          and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
          future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
          saying that he has done it.

Inevitably in any Lenten lectionary, in any conversation about scripture passages relating to the crucifixion, this one, Psalm 22, is going to make an appearance. Quite frankly, one reason I appreciate this psalm is its brutal emotional honesty, which feels insanely jumbled and dissonant — kind of like my own brain and heart. 

We have a combination of "God, where the hell are you", "I believe you're good, so you must not be too far", "My life is hell, but I'm still going to praise you, especially in public, so that others might believe in your goodness", and "You're really the one in charge here, so I'm just gonna keep doin' what I'm doin' and trust you to fix this mess." Yes, I know there's more to this psalm, but there's only so much I can tackle without basically handing you John Calvin's Institutes. 

Many people find Lent a time to shore up their already deeply-rooted faith. Others, like myself, often experience Lent as a season when all our doubts come to the surface in the most dramatic way possible (or maybe just those like me who are Fours on the Enneagram). Yet psalms like this one so authentically express what goes through my mind: the ever-raging battle between doubting God's presence and recalling those times and experience when God's involvement could not have been more tangible or palpable. 

Preach faith until you have it, and then because you have it, you will preach faith — Peter Böhler to John Wesley

The life of faith is frequently one of dissonance, of internal wrestling and external battling. These words from the Psalmist that we later hear from the crucified Christ remind us that to be human followers of the Way means risking not always being able to make total sense of things. The cacophony of sounds, thoughts, and beliefs around us can feel overwhelming, yet we can still hold onto that thread of trust connecting us to the Creator...

The one who did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted

The one who did not hide her face, but who hears our cries

The one who comes quickly, who delivers our souls from the sword and our lives from the dogs, who saves us from the mouths of lions and from the horns of oxen

Whatever dissonance you face today, know that you are not alone on this journey. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and hear that still, small voice saying "I'm right here." 

**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**

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photo credit:  Martin Frey (via Flickr)