Saturday, March 13th
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place for all generations.” Psalm 90: 1.
This comforting line is the first verse of the 90th Psalm. Like most Psalms this one is beautiful, poetic and touches my heart. Since Psalms were originally written to be sung with the accompaniment of a stringed instrument, I decide to read the Psalm out loud. The cadence of the sentences reveal two dueling themes. First the Psalmist praises the Lord by acknowledging his everlasting nature. God was there before he formed the mountains, the earth and our world. There is comfort in this constancy.
Then the verses contrast God’s eternity with man’s fragility and mortality. The author writes that man’s days pass away quickly and come to an end like a sigh. We are compared to grass that grows quickly but then withers away. Truly we are a mere speck on the eternal timeline.
I continue to recite the Psalm. I focus on the verses in which the Psalmist laments the wrath of God. He wants to know how long man’s trials and tribulations must last. Words of destruction, anger and wrath speak to fear. How or why do fear and comfort coexist in this Psalm? I struggle to make these verses reconcile into a clear and concise message. Unfortunately, it still seems to be the “comforting lines” versus the “lamenting lines”. The author seems to praise God’s ever present, everlasting nature. Then in the next line complains about God’s anger and asks for compassion.
Frustrated my mind races back over the decades to a professor who was influential in my life. He would set up two contradictory cases and watch as the class analyzed and debated to no real end. Then he dismissed us with the instruction to go home and ” ponder this problem in the quiet of your study”. Being a student, I had no study, so I retreated to my study carrel in the library. I would ponder, analyze and actively dissect the cases to reach a conclusion. With the mental tools the professor helped me develop. I made an A in the course.
I still don’t have a study, so now I sit at my breakfast room table and decide to use my skills to dissect this Psalm. With many mugs of coffee, I ponder, study and analyze. Writing in my journal I even divide the verses into two columns. Finally, I start by reading the Psalm out loud again. It reminds me of the advice a priest gave me when I was young. Since I was having trouble developing a morning devotional routine, he advised that I should let go of my need to control and analyze. He said STOP and LISTEN. He suggested that I start each morning by reciting a comforting Psalm. I should open myself up to just listening to the beauty of the words not necessarily understanding them. He believed that the words of God’s people millenniums ago reconnected us to them and to God. He said that God talks to us in many ways and these ancient Psalms are one. I remember him saying, “Feel the connection.”
Today I STOP and LISTEN. I am not trying to completely understand each verse.
Rather, I am listening to beautiful poetry written in Biblical times. I feel connected and comforted. Certain verses resonate in my heart. These verses not only make me feel connected to God’s people, they make me feel connected to the everlasting God.
“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” Psalm 90:17. Today in the midst of my personal problems, my friends’ problems and the much broader issues of a pandemic, I choose to STOP and LISTEN and be consoled. ” Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. ”