Friday, January 6, 2017

Walking Between Verses

Sometimes it's a balancing act!
Today is a Psalm 6 sort of day. It is not really a surprise for me—it’s the day after a doctor appointment, and nothing quite rocks my emotional equilibrium than yet another opportunity to scrutinize in explicit detail everything that’s not quite right, and then realize that the laundry list is actually longer then the last time. But my ever-optimistic doctor scribbles with her red pen and comes up with a new regime of more medicine and more diet trickiness and more things for me to try, and it sounds beyond exhausting and overwhelming. “Come back in a month,” she says. “We’ll see if this makes a difference one way or another.”  

If my life was a movie, or a book, I grumbled to myself, we’d sum up this whole period in one or two sentences or maybe 10 seconds of film clips dubbed over with sad violin music! After all, we want to get to the climax quickly—skip the tedious journey and arrive at that moment of victory when the unlikely hero turns the battle, when lovers are reunited, when evil is finally defeated. When there is an end.

Even Luke, the author of Acts, condenses time: Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened….For everyone was praising God  for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years. (Acts 3:7; 4:21b-22)

That 41st New Year’s when he finally had his legs back must have been a joyous moment—look what happened this year! God healed me! I can walk! But I wonder, what about the forty years previous…when the calendar flipped over without resolution and the future was as grey and hazy as the past?

A long walk through the mountains (Morobe Province)
It can be a long walk between verses—a walk of forty years perhaps to beg lame beside that Temple, to trudge through the pain of broken relationships, to live in failing bodies and weeping hearts, to wander through the paths of injustice and see evil explode in airport gunfire and human trafficking.

It’s a walk that can have Psalm 6 sort of days.

Sometimes I think we like to pretend the laments are some muffled minor note in the back of the orchestra—they don’t fit nicely along with our tambourines and joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart and cards plastered with serene, sinless lakes. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t the climax. They are the tedium, the middle, the long walk.

Sometimes there is a lot of mud, like here in Gulf Province
 (photo by Debbie Petterson)
But, they are beautiful. Because we have a God who is not intimidated by the heart-cries of Psalm 6 or Psalm 88. We have Immanuel, God with us, who came down to slog in the mud—to touch lepers and writhe under thorns and agonize from betrayal and grieve bitterly at the death of friends. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, He cried. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

An eternity for Him between those verses. An ending for us.

“Teach us to number our days,” Moses says in Psalm 90, “so we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Teach us to look around and see our death in full view, so we might walk as light.

We love resolutions because we are made for them—because our Lord dipped down into the depths of Psalm 6 and answered. Our aching walk might span the entire prelude of this life before conclusion—or perhaps only forty New Year’s. But one day the lame will dance, the tears will dry, and the chains of this world will fall away—and there will be an end

which is just the beginning. Hallelujah.