Psalm 52: Flourishing

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1

“Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
    Why do you boast all day long,
    you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

2

You who practice deceit,
    your tongue plots destruction;
    it is like a sharpened razor.

3

You love evil rather than good,
    falsehood rather than speaking the truth.[c]

4

You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

5

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:  He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
    he will uproot you from the land of the living.

6

The righteous will see and fear;
    they will laugh at you, saying,

7

“Here now is the man
 who did not make God his stronghold 
but trusted in his great wealth 
and grew strong by destroying others!”

8

But I am like an olive tree 
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love 
forever and ever.

9

For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
 And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good.”

-Psalm 52, NIV (emphasis mine)

 

To be completely honest, this Psalm was a little aggravating.

 

I was able to meet him half way. Once I read the whole story about who Doeg was and how he convinced Saul that a priest had betrayed him and aided his now enemy David, which was all a lie, and lead Saul to order the deaths of over eighty priests, I understood the violent, vindictive language. I understood it even more so when I learned that Saul’s soldiers refused the order, driving Doeg to carry out an extermination on his own of an entire town, including women and the elderly and children, just to advance himself into Saul’s good graces.

 

Once I knew that Doeg was to the world then what a terrorist is to us now, I was fine with David getting AT him… even though David was far from perfect himself. I was okay with the hypocrisy and the faint smell of an inflated ego, because in the end, I’m happy something was said about Doeg.

 

“But I am like an olive tree 
flourishing in the house of God;”

 

What frustrates me though, above all things, is the premise that God is always good to those who follow Him. That David, because he believes in God, is going to be just dandy. That may strike you as unchristian, but hear me out.

 

From what I have seen of this world, blessings don’t seem to fall on the good and curses on the bad. It’s more complicated than that. And it bothers me.

 

I think about Casey Anthony, who very likely killed her baby girl and yet, got off scot-free. Or O.J. Simpson getting away with the murder of his wife. I think of the thousands of innocent children dying every day from malnutrition. And the one billion in the world that lack access to clean water. I think of Newtown and the drug lords and Anne Frank and Goldman Sachs.

 

Why isn’t Casey getting plucked out of her protective tent?

Why aren’t the children of Uganda flourishing?

 

Here’s the small bit of sense I can make of all this. When I lose everything, when it seems like my life is imploding, I am able to fling out a fraught cry to God because… where else am I to go? I can’t imagine putting all of my security in possessions alone, because those can all be gone in a moment’s time. I know God as something of an anchor that I cling to tightly for hope of something changing, because I understand and I know that He is always there.

 

But I struggle to grasp how he is always good.

 

I believe there is an explanation out there- that he must be good, but I can’t make heads or tails of it. Seems like evil is so pervasive today and quite often, I’ve seen devoted Christians bear the brunt of some truly difficult heart-shattering decisions of life. Tragedies that have Shriveled families, not made them Flourish. And the whole time, I watched these poor friends recite, through gritted teeth, feel-good clichés about God’s providence.

 

This is a bit of a rant. A bit of projection. A slice of my confusion with the goodness of God.

But most importantly, these are the honest doubts that replay in my mind.

 

So help me.

What are your thoughts?

How do you reconcile God’s goodness with evil in the world?

What does it mean to flourish?

 

RR

 

~~~

The Psalms Journey community: a group of people writing through the Psalms. All posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

(For more details, or to grab the button, click on the Psalms Journey page)

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Psalm 51: Contrition

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“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.”

– Psalm 51:17 NIV

 

 

(The psalmist here is praying a prayer of contrition to God. Contrition is a place of remorse for wrong behavior, thoughts and beliefs. It is a state of being.)

(The words contrite and confession and others like them have always driven me a bit mad. And I think it’s because we’ve always looked at them wrong. I couldn’t stop seeing this word in Psalm 51)

~~~

 

No, for a long time I was not interested in prayer.

 

It wasn’t because I lacked belief and it wasn’t because I was apathetic. Well, both played a little into it. But central to my dismissal, central to what kept my hands in my pockets through praise and worship and meditation and reflection was that I could not and cannot deal with a guilt trip God.

 

Yes, there were times when some big things happened and I knew I had messed it all up. I have felt the crushing weight of remorse pressing into my conscience. But, a lot of times? Maybe most times? I wasn’t sure why I should feel sorry at all. And the only honest guilt I would ever feel was just guilt for not feeling guilty.

 

Sometimes I would stand before God, wholly uninspired and, in a way, insulted. I didn’t understand why He demanded some half-hearted apology from me in the first place. Hadn’t I already done this? Isn’t this redundant?

 

How was I to ever know how much sin I had thoughtlessly spilled into this world since my last confession? Could I actually traverse through my days and recover every single one? Bring each one, with good intention, to His feet? What If I overlooked one? What would that mean?

 

With this line of thought, I did a clever little maneuver of heart and mind that always left me feeling… fine but not good.

 

I’d ask “Forgive me for all sins, remembered and forgotten” and I’d imagine a Holy touch on the heart, a new sparkling surface scrubbing out all the stains.

 

Doing that helped me sleep at night, but never really felt like anything special.

 

And it’s kind of like when you’re little and you go to your parents’ room, head down, lip stiffened, feet pigeon-toed, stammering out a sour, sorry. They knew, and you knew, that you wouldn’t even be saying it if it there hadn’t been a time-out. That if you didn’t get anything out of it, you wouldn’t be standing there.

 

So they’d ask you again, more pointedly, what are you sorry for?, and the tears would fall because you don’t want to say that you shouldn’t’ve mouthed off to them. You don’t want to say sorry at all because you still believe you are right.

 

In the end, all you got back was an acceptance of apology and a lecture on backtalk. They said, softly, you can’t talk to me like that. And with each lecture, you grew a little more out of childishness.

 

Looking back now, it seems so silly, doesn’t it? All our tantrums? How our parents must’ve screamed inside, when will they learn?!?

 

And even though my analogy may be weak, I am not saying God is as simple as parent disciplining her child. He is not wagging His finger in our face demanding a little respect. Confession is stepping back, seeing the immensity of who God is. Because I cannot enter into communion with Him until I understand that He knows better than I. That he is greater than I. Even when I believe I am right and I don’t understand. I cannot appreciate Him if I go in eyes shut.

 

Confession is not about guilt, it is about comprehending how things are. It isn’t about fear, it is about better understanding. It is about communication.

 

Confession, as I see it, is about knowing where you stand. Your sins are forgiven, the debt has been paid, that’s all over and done.

 

So why do I confess?

 

Because it’s preparation in my mind and heart for what I’m about to do. It is a preparation for Who I am about to talk to. It is about seeing myself standing before God. Sometimes I’ll imagine a small little me before the endless blue ocean. It stretches and roars and washes up on my feet. It is immaculate and full of mystery.

 

So when I think of surrender, contrition, right relationship, knowing where I stand, I look it as less of an abasement of self, and more of an opening of the eyes. Knowing it to be as true and fixed as gravity.

 

There’s no guilt in the understanding that you are imperfect.

There’s no humiliation in admitting that God is perfect.

 

This is simply what it is. You decide whether or not you’re aware of it.

 

Once I was able to grasp that God didn’t need my remorse and my guilt, but just wanted my presence, it hit me that this big and exquisite and beautiful being had once blown breath into my lungs. Pumped my heart to life. Made me into all that I am. Met me at my imperfect level. Forgave me of all that I am not. Redeemed me so he could only see me as perfect.

 

And suddenly I am looking at a perfect God that loved me so much that he actively chooses to see past how I hurt Him. A Father, a friend, with that kind of loyalty. The God that sees the best in me. Only my good, Because I am His and He is mine.

 

And I reach a place of gratitude. Feeling as natural and guiltless as gravity.

 

RR

 

~~~

The Psalms Journey community: a group of people writing through the Psalms. All posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

(For more details, or to grab the button, click on the Psalms Journey page)

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