Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shut up, voices!

SOMETIMES you just wake up and say, “Is there anything I haven’t screwed up?”

You don’t say it out loud because someone might answer. He might agree with you, which would make you feel bad. Or he might disagree with you and tell you how wonderful you are, which would make you feel worse.

It’s hard to clearly assess one’s own life. If you compare your achievements to others in your age group, you may feel either sad or smug. I don’t have any grandkids—sad. However, at least I don’t have any incarcerated offspring—smug. 

And why should what my children are and do be my achievement, anyway? Or my fault, for that matter?

(That’s just an example. I don’t obsess about my children all day and all night. I obsess about a variety of things.)

That’s where my thoughts were going when I woke up way too early Sunday morning. I tried to go back to sleep, but the voices in my head wouldn’t shut up. So I took them downstairs and made them a cup of coffee and turned on their favorite early morning TV show.

They still wouldn’t shut up, so I moved to my laptop and went to I went directly to Psalms, a haven for wretched people having bad mornings. 

David was having a very bad week when he wrote Psalm 52. The priest at a town called Nob had supplied him with food and a sword when David had to go into hiding to avoid Saul’s death threats. Within a few days, revenge landed on Nob. Eighty-give priests were executed, along with all the men, women, children, and livestock of the town. (Read 1 Samuel 21 and 22.)

The first part of Psalm 52 is a diatribe against Doeg, the man who carried out the slaughter on Saul’s behalf. 

For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.”
Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
    Why do you boast all day long,
    you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
    your tongue plots destruction;
    it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
    falsehood rather than speaking the truth.[c]
You love every harmful word,
    you deceitful tongue!
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
    He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
    he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
    they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
    who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
    and grew strong by destroying others!”

I wonder if David thought, “I really screwed up. If I hadn’t gone to Nob, all those people would still be alive. Because they helped me, their whole town was wiped out.” If he did think that, he didn’t include it in his psalm. Instead the psalm moves from deriding Doeg to describing David’s life in God’s presence. 

But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good.

The words David used are both soothing and empowering. Even if they weren’t arranged in sentences, they'd be something substantial to grab hold of.

flourishing                   trust                 unfailing love
praise               hope

If the voices taunt me again tomorrow morning, I know what to do. There are 149 more psalms.