Each Wednesday in Lent, our midday service will explore the psalm from the prior Sunday's appointed lectionary. This week we consider Psalm 25. Note to Hebrew geeks, "soul" is nephesh- which is much more than saying "soul"-it is life breath, essence, source of life
On my morning walks with Toby, I get the chance to see things I might normally pass by. Especially in the morning light, one of the things that I am mesmerized by are spider webs. I admire their beauty and how intricately spun they are. But they defy understanding. When covered in dew, they look like lots of tiny little dots that cling together. It all seems incredibly fragile and yet webs are designed to sustain winds, rain and being buffeted about by forces far greater than they are. I am mystified, seeing the spider in the web. How can that spider can just hang and twist in the wind, sometimes by one slender thread, working methodically to build and repair? God created and gifted the spider with a mechanism for making, and rebuilding the web, over and over again. The spider seems able to wait it out even in the tension of threats that take things to the breaking point. That kind of waiting and trusting is hard. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t make a very good spider.
Waiting in the tension, enduring people and places that seem to test us to the breaking point takes more than the other times in our life, It is less of a challenge to ask God to hear us and show us the way when life is going good. But when our whole web of existence is threatened, having someone tell us a cliché like “you’ll work it out”, or to “just have faith”, rings hollow in the midst of it all.
These places demand something deeper. Most of us have been in such a place where we had to wonder what we can count on. For one woman it was when her daughter ended up in the emergency room with a serious stroke. Not only was she overwhelmed, she wondered if there was something she’d done wrong or should’ve done differently. Yet, as I waited with her in the consultation room, after the doctor gave bad news and left, she almost instinctively whipped out a rosary from her pocket and pulled me down onto the floor with her, and together we prayed on our knees. This was, for her, a well tuned response to whenever she found herself in a place where other ways to keep calm would not do.
Something to hang onto.
Someone once said, ““You can't connect the dots looking forward; perhaps you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect…You have to trust in something.”
The psalmist is in such a fragile place and would say the something we trust is someone-It’s God. While it sounds lovely to say “I lift up my soul to you,” this psalm prayer goes much, much farther. In the fragile places straining to survive, this prayer recalls:
God breathed life into us in creation, and now that very existence is on the line. How we're counting on God to stay connected. It’s a place that responds to the unspoken question of “how will this end?” and says- “I’m hanging by a thread, my hands are empty- I have nothing left. I lift up everything that I am- my very essence. I’m entrusting even my next breath and beat of my heart- to you.
God, ALL of my hope hangs upon YOU.”
This is not a simple prayer to pray. Embodying this level of trust and hope while waiting for God in the tension takes practice and faith there is something to rely upon.
Perhaps we can then hear the words, “show me, lead me, guide me, walk with me” as a request to internalize the words we say when we cry out- “Get me through this God.” These words are critical.
This psalm is a teaching psalm and reminds us why deepening our prayer life on a regular basis is so vital. It's training us to respond so that when and if we really need to know it, we can engage it. So this pattern becomes such a part of who we are, that even in the midst of a challenge, we remember what God has given us. We have something to hold onto when we feel like we’re hanging by a single thread. And that we can rely on this even if we had a role in how we got to that place.
As we do this time and again, we deepen our faith- what God has given us. We too are created and given a way to tend our web. When we pray this psalm, we hear ourselves telling God who God is, but more so telling ourselves that God will remember us. To try to live our faith surrounded by those who do not, remembering God’s desire for us. God gives us this way to connect, to build and to strengthen our picture of God. To shape our faith, both for us as individuals and us together.
By continuing to turn to God in all things as a discipline, we can more deeply internalize the response of faith- turning to God and lifting up all of our desires and emotions to God. In hope, in trust and waiting. Deepening our ability to withstand whatever feels threatening to us. Believing we will not be abandoned. Even when it seems like we are just mouthing the words. God meets us there and helps us remember who God has been and is. A God who won’t decide to walk away and leave us swinging in the wind.
"We know that is not you, God."
"We know that is not you, God."
May we remember that from eternity God is lovingkindness and goodness, and God remembers us for who we were created to be. In all of the strains, and tensions, and things that toss us about. God continues to walk, to teach and to guide. God is the source that shapes all of our hope, all of our trust, and all that we are. And God has promised and brought salvation and deliverance- Christ is the message that God is forever guarding this promise as God’s very essence loves and protects ours.
This is you and only you, O God.