About three weeks ago, I read a psalm that struck me with the disparity between David's faith and my own, between his relationship with the heavenly Father and mine, between what he knew he could ask of God and what I feel I can ask of Him. The words that I read were as follows:
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows and scattered them:
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
Such awareness, once it struck me, produced the following prayer in the margins of my Bible:
I can't help but wonder if You would respond this way to me, too, Lord, if I called for help in my distress. Sometimes I go and bury my head in Your chest, or throw myself down at Your feet, but I don't ask You to come and rescue me, to come down from the heights of Your heaven and defeat my enemies on my behalf. Sometimes I pray for You to send Your angels to protect me, or for You to hide me under the shadow of Your wings, like the words of Psalm 91 encourage me to do. Sometimes I pray that You would send Your Sprit of peace, like a dove, to rest upon my head and the heads of others.
But I do not pray for You to come and rescue me. Perhaps I doubt You will, and perhaps it's easier for me to run to You, knowing You are there, than to expect You to come to where I am. At least with You, Father, I want to grow in my faith and understanding that You will -- and that You even want -- to come after me like You came after David. Help me grow in the faith that moves me to receive what You have to offer me. Amen.
I've been sitting with this psalm and this prayer since then, marveling at the rock-bottom truth of my heart in this place, the truth that I do not expect that God will run to me and rescue me with the vengeance He showed His servant David. Then last night at church, my thoughts on the matter expanded yet again.
Our church has just moved into a new building. I may share more on that experience later, but let it suffice for the purposes of this story that the new building is much larger and more technically complex and, overall, inspiring quite a bit of awe in all of us. (We've worshipped in a rundown but renovated old rollerskating rink for the past 20 years.) Our pastors were good to us in many ways this weekend, encouraging us with gentleness back to the King, bestowing on all of us the permission to sink slowly into this big change, and then reminding us that we are meant for worship. "Remember that it's about Him conforming us ever more into His likeness," our pastor said, which turned my mind back to this psalm and my quandary in grappling with it.
If it is God's nature and desire to run to us and rescue us and lift us into the palm of His hand, up into a safe and quiet place, does this mean we are to extend the same to others? Would this be one part of what it means to be conformed into His likeness? This question struck down deep inside me.
Why do I cry at the brokenness of others? Why do tears stream from my face as I lay in bed some nights, the faces of beloved friends and family whose stories I know and whose journeys I have watched, flashing before my mind's eye while unspoken, wordless prayers bubble up from my spirit to His? Why does God choose to sit me beside random, lone women at church, my heart burning in prayer for them throughout the service, prayers that plead with God for the rescuing and heartening of their spirits, though we have never met and I know not the road they walk? Why do the words of Isaiah 61 and 62 haunt me evermore, bringing me to weep and pray for faceless girls and women I can only believe someday I'll meet?
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion --
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. . . .
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you. . . .
You shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.
--Isaiah 61:1-3, 62:3-4, 12