01 July 2011

Surrender and Win ~ Psalm 13

Free Screensaver for You!
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From March 2010 to end of April 2011, I took nearly a thousand photographs of the All Saints church campus, attempting to chronicle its kaleidoscope shifts from melancholy to joy, its hushed and dusky dawns, the halleluiah-chorus sunsets, the corps de ballet of trees dancing a shimmering samba of light and shadow with the wind, the darkened chapel stirring with ancient hopes and fresh doubts.

This particular photo was taken at sunset, January 3d, 2011 -- a briskly cool, not-too-windy day, a week before the year's first snow.  The photo is unretouched.  As the sun slipped to the horizon, the actual colours were more more vivid than this image suggests.

I created this screensaver for display on my laptop,
a way to keep hope bright before me even as darkness approaches.
As a gift to readers of Java Chaat, you are welcome
to download the screensaver, for personal, noncommercial use.
Concept & Design by Shou'Shou, Gitanajava Productions LLC, ©2011.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A few years ago, during a dark night of the soul, as I rifled through a stack of books, searching for any shred of comfort and guidance, I came across Psalm 13.   This psalm resonated in me then; it still does today.  When the seas of confusion and panic come crashing over my head, sucking the very breath out of me, this tehillah is my life-raft.

At first reading, it is the tangled, inarticulate prayer of a desperate man on the run from trouble, the prayer of a man to a God he isn't altogether sure is listening, and if He is listening, then He isn't answering.

David is the fugitive, dodging the unrelenting vows of vengeance and mercurial edicts of King Saul, his once-mentor and liege lord (q.q.v. 1 Samuel 23:7 - 1 Samuel 27:1).  David skips the Pop Tart prayers, the neat-&-tidy liturgical singsong.  He screams out at God in anguish, "Where are you?  Don't you love me anymore?" (vv. 1-2).  He gets down and dirty, authentically, wholly real, with himself and with his God.

Despite abject uncertainty, David grabs God and confesses his fear, "...look on me and answer, give light to my eyes", [because if you don't help me, I'm afraid--] "--I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice." (vv. 3-4).

Don't you get it, God?  I'm out here in the barren wilderness, begging food and water, sleeping in caves a thousand leagues from the comforts of my own home, my heart and spirit are as desiccated as these desert sands, I don't know if I have a future, I don't know who I can trust.

The final stanza is a stunner (vv. 5-6).  In his blackest moment, when even God seems to shun him, David strangles out a sacrifice of praise to God, "I will sing to the LORD for He has been good to me."  David will not be defined by his tragedies or failures or critics.  He refuses to accept what the gossips brimming with common knowledge say about him, "David's finished.  Wait 'til Saul catches up with him!  He'll put that smart-ass shepherd in his place, you wait and see." (I Samuel 25:2-11)  Contradictory to all we know about human nature, David chooses hope over despair.  He leans deep and hard into God's promises, over the tangible, here-and-now hostile sea of hopeless circumstances.   

In that micro-moment of trust, the hallowed decrees of the Powers That Be are silenced; the insidious innuendos, his own self-doubts, and the long-ago voices still echoing in his memory are purged.  In an iron act of will over emotion, David "sacrifice[s] a sacrifice of thanks." (Psalm 116:17)

Have you experienced such a moment?  Look beyond the deepening twilight to the new day coming.  Choose hope.  The harder it is to do, the more important it becomes.

Your circumstances may not change an iota.  Your emotions could yet bolt, bounce, writhe, and wrestle.  Your knowledge and insight are not suddenly boundless.  Your voice may remain harsh, quivering -- or mute.  The heat of your desert might blaze more fiercely than before as your every gesture and conversational marginalia is scrutinised, pinned to the wall, and dissected for code, subtext, and subversion (I Sam. 17:17-29, I Sam. 18:5-11).  You're still on the bench, head-in-your-hands bewildered, drenched in sweaty futility, wandering aimlessly from chore to arid chore.

So why moil the agony of a sacrifice of praise if nothing changes?

In that agony you are in what the ancient Celts named a "thin place", a place where YOU is worn thin, a place "where the boundary between [heaven and earth] becomes very soft, porous, permeable.  Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts..." and we encounter the Divine.  Exhausted by interminable tears and failures, too weak to toddle another step on our own, we abandon our worn-out, weary self and nestle deep against our Father's chest. Exhausted and overcome by a world we cannot command or control or organise to suit ourselves, we can -- at last -- throw ourselves into the embrace of God.

Less intellectualising, my friend.  Less self-damnation.  Every time we willfully, deliberately, choose hope over despair, we change in a way undetectable to the finite human eye (I Sam. 16:7).

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