For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me to dwell in dark places like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is desolate.
excerpt from Psalm 143
There are times when the words of the Old Testament are foreign, even repulsive, they drip off my ears forming puddles and pools on the floor. But then there are times when I soak them up like a dry sponge, and they saturate the deep places in my soul.
Our family has taken to memorizing and reciting psalms together (we are actually learning to chant them which is an amazing tool for internalizing scripture but more on that later). Over the past months we have been consuming Psalm 143, digesting it and incorporating it into our bodies. Today the words resound in me. Today my soul is desolate. Today I don’t care for any of my success. Today all I want is to be able to create another baby and to give birth to her and watch her grow and be home and mother. Today I stare at ink drying on paper as I write and I’m grateful for this small distraction from my self pity. Today I grieve.
When we pray the psalms at our table we light a candle and we look at images like this one:
A young mother who raised a miraculous child only to watch him stripped and tortured before her eyes.
And this one:
A man, who though He was God, allowed Himself to be subjected to ridicule and death for the sake of God’s glory.
And we know there are thousands more stories of the helpless and vulnerable, of those seeking God, of good and honest people whose lives were filled violence, calamity and persecution.
That grief can be avoided through fervent prayer or good deeds is an enticing myth which woos us to idolatry. But living a life free from the burden of deep sorrow is not possible and probably not even beneficial (though it is still incredibly desirable).
Instead the Christian life offers us a divine mystery where we can be both entrenched with grief and still overflowing with abundant joy. I can rejoice at my one beautiful daughter and even be grateful that I can give her all my attention when she is up at night with a fever and that I still have free arms to hold her in church when she wants me to. And yet at the same time I ache for a little baby to wake me up at night even when I’m exhausted and to fill my arms when they are empty. I celebrate what God has given me yet I long, with the rest of creation, for fulfillment, for wholeness, and for healing.
This week in our reading group we begin a sad book about hope. Silence by Shusaku Endo takes place in Japan in the 1600’s during a time of Christian persecution. Like the ancient texts of the psalms Silence challenges us to look at our own lives, our practice of faith and to seek out God’s presence and wait for him in His silence.
Silence asks us, are we willing to make space in our life for pain? Will this allow us also to know more fully the hope of salvation? Are we willing to ask the questions?
This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now we beginning Silence by Shusaku Endo. We would love for you to join us.
For another perspective on suffering and joy check out the latest post at Mothering Spirit