Friday, August 31, 2007

Not quite getting it right...

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who finds great delight in his commands.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

(Psalm 112:1, 3-7, NIV)
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My sister, brother-in-law and I are going through a rough patch right now. Health issues, finances, trying to make it with radically reduced incomes...then the car breaks down. The 12 year old TV rolls over and dies. A sprained ankle causes a lost day's work. Things which used to be "little things" now seem like "big things."

So I went to this coming Sunday's lectionary readings, looking for strength, consolation, or solace. But when I turned to this passage, I heard a much diferent message - that a truly GOOD person, a righteous person, will have wealth and riches, no fear of bad news, a steadfast heart, and no fear. And my first reaction was, "Well, I guess that's pretty convicting, 'cuz that's exactly NOT what we're getting!"

Now, I know - I'm no saint. Never have been. And I trust in the Gospel, that all who believe and are baptized will be saved. But it's hard, at times, to recognize that it's at least partly my failures at truly righteous living that have brought me (and those I love) to these kinds of impasses. And it just hurts a bit when it's the Bible rubbing my face in it.

I know that elsewhere in the Bible, it tells me that "there are none who are righteous, not even one. there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God" (Romans 3:10). I know that there is much of our current condition that has absolutely nothing to do with my unrighteousness.

My head knows this, even as my heart struggles with it. It seems that when I'm down, the old tapes can start playing, and I can become the Steve-of-old who heard "the good news," but was still waiting for the one Bible passage that would "vote him off the island..."

In the rooms of recovery, I frequently hear someone say "Why is this HAPPENING to me?" The answer frequently is, "Buddy, it's just HAPPENING - it's not specifically happening TO YOU..." I know, in my heart, that there's lots of people with troubles, and we are hardly unique in our struggles.

In the end, my help comes from another Psalm - the 23rd - and I remember that no matter how dark and terrifying the road I walk (even through the valley of death), God is with me. I have a Shepherd who loves and cares for me - rich or broke, homeless or living in a penthouse. As a friend often tells me, "It's not like anyone gets out of this life alive, Steve..."

So I keep on keepin' on, and I trust that God will be with us, even when it seems like the rest of the world might be against us. That's what I understand "faith" is all about, in the end.

God of mercy and lovingkindness, remind me that no matter where I am, you are there with me. Sometimes life just seems overwhelming, and hope seems far away. That's when I need to be reminded that my hope is in you. Amen.

4 comments:

Tom Scharbach said...

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.

His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.

Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.


He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.

The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

(Psalm 112 NIV, 1, 3-8 in original, 2, 9 and 10 added by me to complete text)

Steve, I'd be careful about a literal reading of "wealth and riches" in this Psalm, given the spiritual context of the Psalm as a whole.

Within Judaism, Psalm 112 is not read literally, but is linked to the Passover, a sign of liberation from evil in the multiplicity of forms, and "wealth and riches" are not taken to mean material wealth and riches.

In any event, whatever the differences between Christians and Jews in interpretation and use of this Psalm, I have always been struck by the similarity of this Psalm to another text with which I know you are familiar:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

Self-seeking will slip away.

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.



Are these extravagant promises? We think not.

They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

They will always materialize if we work for them.

Poor Mad Peter said...

Tom's got it,Steve man, and I'd add a warning not to take Paul too literally, either. He beat himself up constantly, in all probability because he was a gay man in a homophobic society, and often overstated things.

Scott said...

sheet happens man... I know, I hate to hear and even worse to hear myself say it but, this too shall pass... (that can also work well when things are going well... lol)

Im A Foto Nut said...

My Father's Aunt used to allways say, "If there's no rest for the wicked, then I must be aweful damn bad!" to counter Frued said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Unfortuanatley for you it happnes ot be one of those big smelly dog turdy ones.