Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent, Day 13

I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance;
when they see me in the street they avoid me.

I am forgotten, out of mind, as if I were dead; 
I am as useless as a broken pot.
For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around; 
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.
But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. - Psalm 31

Image from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Sometimes the psalms can seem so far removed from our experience. As far as I know, I'm not a reproach to anyone in particular. My life is not "The Hunger Games." I don't think anyone is plotting to take my life. And I don't labor under the illusion that this is because of anything good I have done. It has a lot more to do with not having made any gigantic blunders in life, with the society I live in, and with forces that have not conspired against me. So why would I ever pray this psalm?

Yet when I stop to think, it is not difficult to imagine this situation existing in the realm of human experience -- not just in the past, when it was first written, but today in our own world. And I can't just imagine it taking place in other countries where political oppression runs rampant, or where lawlessness reigns with terror. It probably happens in my own town, and in my own neighborhood. Does the homeless person feel "as useless as a broken pot"? Is a young gang member, or a soldier, or a policeman able to say "they plot to take my life"? They could pray this prayer with great sincerity.

So all that remains is whatever separates me from people such as these ... and, frankly, it's not much. Here are all are, humans finding our way through the world, and some have it tougher than others. Furthermore, we don't all have a constant road through life. Disasters happen that can change our experiences wildly. I have heard it said that we are all two paychecks and a support system away from homelessness.

When I pray the psalms from day to day, then, I am praying not just from my own perspective, but from others' as well. And I am praying not just for my situation in this moment, but for my situation in the past and in a future I can't anticipate. Someday I may really need this psalm. And because I've prayed it so many times, it will come to me.

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