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Speaking to the Soul: Lowly and in pain

Speaking to the Soul: Lowly and in pain

Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies.
You know the insults I receive,
and my shame and dishonor;
my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Let their table be a trap for them,
a snare for their allies.
Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be a desolation;
let no one live in their tents.
For they persecute those whom you have struck down,
and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.
Add guilt to their guilt;
may they have no acquittal from you.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.

~Psalm 69

The Psalm appointed for Friday speaks directly to me in a way that nearly made my hair stand on end. If you skimmed over it to get to the text of my reflection, take a few minutes to read it through line by line. I’ll wait right here.

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This psalm opens with a cry for help, listing out the deep trouble the psalmist is in which range from feeling under attack to worrying that those attacks will not only harm the psalmist, but will also harm the psalmist’s community: “Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me.”

Then, after the psalmist reaches the end of the recital of woe we see a change from calling out for rescue to calling out for vengeance: “Let their table be a trap for them…”. This to me felt very ‘real’ after a week of tumultuous emotion. I do not know anyone who has not indulged in a revenge fanstasy or two when feeling as the psalmist does. However, after spending some time fantasizing about the retribution God could meet out, the tide of the psalm turns.

“But I am lowly and in pain;” the psalmist writes. From that moment on instead of calling for vengeance and retribution, the call is for raising voice in song and rebuilding hope among the oppressed and needy.

I did not know how badly I needed this psalm until I read it. The way it both powerfully connected me with a human who wrote over 2000 years ago. These feelings are not new feelings and humans have been grappling with them for much of recorded history. We lose family, loved ones, status, elections, material goods, and we mourn that loss, we feel anger at loss, we wish for vengeance or retribution, but most of all we keep on trying to build and rebuild.

That is what this psalm says to me: don’t stop at the wishing for vengeance stage of grief-stricken anger. Sing, put hope into words, share that hope with others and find a way to live into God’s love for us, now and always.

 


 

All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.

 

Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.

Image: By SailkoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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