by Sarah Brock
AM Psalm 31 PM Psalm 35
Jeremiah 24:1-10; Romans 9:19-33; John 9:1-17
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me,
O Lord, O God of truth.
Chanting these words each night at Compline, wraps me in a blanket of comfort providing a sense of security in my faith before I drift off to sleep. But, this is not the end of the psalm and as I continue reading beyond the familiar verses of my nightly prayer, I begin to find more challenge than comfort.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols,
and I put my trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy;
for you have seen my affliction;
you know my distress.
You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy;
you have set my feet in an open place.
I’ve found myself in all sorts of open places. Some days it’s the top of a hill with the world spread out below me. Some days it’s a clearing in the woods, looming trees casting their long shadows. Some days it’s a place full of gloomy, dense fog. But, regardless of the specifics of the space I find myself in at any given moment, I find an invitation there. Free from ‘the power of the enemy’ and in an open place comes to me as an invitation to use my own power. The real question is how? And, for what?
When you find your feet set in an open place, what invitation do you find there? How do you choose to respond?
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
and also my throat and my belly.
For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails me because of affliction,
and my bones are consumed.
I have become a reproach to all my enemies and
even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance;
when they see me in the street they avoid me.
I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am useless as a broken pot.
By this point in Lent each year, I always find myself in this forlorn sense of myself. A combination of the dreary, wet weather as winter transforms into spring and the Lenten practice of shining light into my own dark corners begins to overwhelm me as Holy Week swiftly approaches. I begin to drown in grief at my weakness, failure, and uselessness. But today, a conversation with a friend reminded me that it is our brokenness that most enables us to help others. It’s the moments of weakness that lead us to have compassion and empathy. Sometimes it’s the cracks that cultivate beauty. Sometimes it’s the other broken pots that most help us to feel useful again.
For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around;
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.
But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.
I have said, “You are my God.
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving-kindness save me.”
Lord, let me not be ashamed for having called upon you;
rather, let the wicked be put to shame;
let them be silent in the grave.
Let the lying lips be silenced which speak against
haughtily, disdainfully, and with contempt.
How great is your goodness, O Lord!
which you have laid up for those who fear you;
which you have done in the sight of all
for those who put their trust in you.
You hide them in the covert of your presence from those
who slander them;
you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord!
for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a
Yet I said in my alarm,
“I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”
Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty
when I cried out to you.
Through a bit of the wilderness of human emotion, the Psalmist leads us back to a place of comfort reminded that God hears our cries even when we feel far away. Through the wilderness of Lent, I’m finding myself consoled by the psalmist’s faith that God is present in the midst of open spaces and the depths of brokenness. Through these last days as we prepare to move through death to resurrection, in what space are your feet set?
Love the Lord, all you who worship him;
the Lord protects the faithful,
but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
Sarah Brock is becoming a postulant in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
Image Credit: My own.