Friday, August 6, 2010

Wisdom of the Psalms at Age 72

It’s my 72nd birthday. It’s also my spouse’s birthday but he’s a mere 69. I don’t know what 72 should feel like but I feel fine and glad to be alive and past the paternal death line.

My dad died when he was 71—way too soon for the length of my love.

Ours had been a love-filled but not always peaceful relationship. Dad was an alcoholic and a master putdown artist whom I loved with all my yearning heart. I remember the mix of sorrow and fear I felt. I hadn’t said everything I wanted to and it was about to be too late. Were there enough I love you’s anyway?

The psalmist gave me a birthday present, a prayer line to describe what I had felt and feel now as I age and contemporaries begin to get sick big. Some die.

“IF I WALK INTO THE THICK OF MY SORROW, YOU KEEP ME ALIVE—AGAINST THE WRATH OF MY FEARS." (Psalm 138:8)

Now how true and wise is that!? I don’t know about you but this verse as it is rendered in a new translation by Pamela Greenberg is emotionally true in general and personally.

Think of it. Think of how partnered love and fear are in your heart. Think of how intimate love and sorrow are in your breast. If you truly love someone you immediately fear loss of that love and you touch your sorrow.

Of course we don’t dwell on these feeling connections because we have the psychological capacity for denial, a gift that can hinder one’s capacity to face truth and heal, and also a gift that can shield us from truth before it demands our notice. I for example never knew about alcoholism until I had to know it was a danger. Even when I knew I resisted. I didn’t want to feel the fear and the sorrow of the death of love.

Other translations of 138:8. 1) NRSV Bible: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

2) Book of Common Prayer: Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me.

3)The Psalter, Liturgy Training Publications: When I face an opponent, you keep me alive. You reach out your hand, your right hand saves me.

The difference is marked. Greenberg’s translation internalizes the prayer language. ENEMY is translated WRATH OF MY FEARS.

I find it true that when I feel injured and deeply sorrowed by something I don’t understand, something I think unjust, I feel afraid, imagine all kinds of enemies and blame externals first, then myself.

How do you cope with such times? Does Godde by whatever name keep you alive? How?

I pray volumes over days and months, often in writing. It brings me back to myself and to Godde who casts no blame but simply listens and keeps me ALIVE AGAINST THE WRATH OF MY FEARS so I can WALK INTO THE THICK OF MY SORROWS.

No comments: