November 23, 2021
Mary Lynn Roy
Smoky Mountain District
Getting Out of the Way
63 God! My God! It’s you—
Psalm 63 (CEB)
I search for you!
My whole being[a] thirsts for you!
My body desires you
in a dry and tired land,
no water anywhere.
2 Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary;
I’ve seen your power and glory.
3 My lips praise you
because your faithful love
is better than life itself!
4 So I will bless you as long as I’m alive;
I will lift up my hands in your name.
5 I’m fully satisfied—
as with a rich dinner.
My mouth speaks praise with joy on my lips—
6 whenever I ponder you on my bed,
whenever I meditate on you
in the middle of the night—
7 because you’ve been a help to me and I shout for joy in the protection of your wings.
8 My whole being clings to you;
your strong hand upholds me.
9 But what about those people who want to destroy me?
Let them go into the bowels of the earth!
10 Let their blood flow by the sword!
Let them be food for wild jackals!
11 But the king should rejoice in God;
everyone who swears by God should give praise
when the mouths of liars are shut for good.
DevotionMy favorite book in the Bible is Psalms. Every book in the Bible speaks to the spectrum of experiences this life holds: good and bad, joy and tragedy, comfort and fear, as well as life and death to name a few. Many of the Psalms encapsulate some, or even most of these, within just a few verses. And, like life – like my life, like me! – many Psalms are full of contradictions packed tightly into a small space.
I struggle when I read the contradictions in the Psalms, just as I wrestle with daily contradictions, choices, and questions. I wonder what to do with longing for community and the need for solitude. I wrestle with the desire to love and the impulse to judge. I live with the tension between the prayer of faith and the dread of doubt. I question what to do with the contradiction at the heart of it all: Lord I believe, help my unbelief!
This is how I see David’s struggle in Psalm 63. His thirst for God is overwhelming. His praise for God is never-ending. He searches for God and is fulfilled, and he shouts for joy about the grace of God’s protection and love. Then, as we do and as life compels us to do, it all turns on a dime. Suddenly, David is imploring God to wipe out his enemies and feed them to wild animals. Wait a minute: enemies? If all is worthy of praise, who are his enemies?
The question I ask myself as I read Psalm 63 quickly becomes, “who in the world are my enemies?” I consider my life and note: my life is full of blessing; God is good to me, and worthy of praise; I’ve never been abused; I’ve never been the victim of a crime; my parents loved me; my health has always been good; and, as far as I know, no one wishes me great harm. And yet, at times I am riddled with anxieties, often with regrets, and feelings of being less than enough. Those contemplations don’t lead to good choices. I’ve made some lousy ones and there are always consequences. Then comes my answer to the question of my enemies: many times in life I have one enemy, and it is me. But that doesn’t make the struggle any less real. David was hiding in the desert from an enemy; but, in the end, maybe David himself was the real enemy? As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Indeed. So, what do I do about this enemy? What do I do with that part of myself? How do I live a life of praise, and thanksgiving, and love, and not let myself be derailed by anger and fear? How do I get out of my own way?
In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a prayer known as the Third Step Prayer. It is prayed as those in recovery take the step of making the decision to turn their will and life over to the care of God, and to seek His guidance in all things. The prayer says, in part, “Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will.” Isn’t that what David cried out for? Isn’t that what we all cry out for? We yearn to be relieved of the bondage of self, the self-interest that gets in our way and in God’s way. What would it mean to be free from the walls we put up to hide behind as we insist on going it alone?
When I’m out of the way, only then am I free. Only when I’m free, am I truly able to seek and do God’s will. Only when I’m free, can I let God’s light of love, service, and grace shine through me. Only then, am I able to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind; and, to love my neighbor – to love you – as myself. The only way I know to obtain that kind of freedom is with God’s help. Only when I’m out of the way am I able to, as the Third Step Prayer says, “bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.” Amen to that!