For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
1 Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[d]—
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
I read this psalm and thought about the kids at school.
A thousand times I’ve told you that we enroll many teen parents. Babies having babies some staff will say and it’s an apt way to put it. The plump kids plopped in these teenage laps have revealed a reality at odds with how things ought to be. Before the class starts they’re strolling down the hall to do the daycare drop off, both shoulders slung with their backpack and diaper bag and honestly, it’s like they’re thirty. Five minutes later they come clowning back- slapping the walls and swearing loudly- and all at once, they’re young again. That tension snaps like a rubber band and you wonder who they really are inside. What that feels like to be torn between age and duty. As one teacher said, “They can’t do both, they have to compartmentalize their maturity levels.” And it’s true.
There was one day when our most inseparable couple was cutting class. They were laying their heads on a table at the end of the hallway. They were laughing on accident and shushing each other…
And I had been through this with them already. Like a hundred times. They each have to graduate, they cannot come here and kiss and not do work and expect to get anywhere in life.
I gave them the order and the girl pouted her way back to class.
But the guy just sat there.
He set his elbows to the table and his chin into his fists and his nostrils started flaring in and out. He told me to “fuck off” and then stared right through me like I wasn’t even there. He was trembling and I was waiting for him to flip the table or storm out the building, but he just stayed still, kept his eyes suspended somewhere behind me. He was so mad and also, very tired.
When he finally looked back at me, he said something that sent tears dripping down his red cheeks. “You have no fucking idea.. you don’t have a clue.. We-“ he said, throwing his finger down the hall “are All we have.”
And in that moment I knew I had forgotten about the bigger story. To me, I was just doing my job. To him, I was just another disruption to an already difficult day. And he was right, I don’t know.
I don’t know about being a sixteen year old dad. To have parents that can barely provide for me, let alone their grandchild. I don’t know what that is like to lean on one person for every need, every ache, every explosion of anger. To be so limited with so much studying and work and a social life. Hell, if I only had one ear to talk to, one person that got exactly what I was going through because she was on the same sinking ship, I would need more than five minutes in the hallway to vent. I’d need a place where I could scream and punch walls and hold onto that person like they were the only person left in the world because, really, they are.
I think about them when I read this psalm because David titles it a Dove on Distant Oaks and if you know anything about doves, you know that they are the weak ones. They are every other bird’s prey. They are hunted down because they don’t fight back. They fly through this life harmless, but tracked by trouble.
And that’s what these two kids are, doves. The life they live is one they should be able to run from, overcome, but they can’t. Everything is on top of everything and they are crushed beneath. Unable to even the score, get what’s theirs, revive their childhood. They are powerless like David inside a circle of Philistines. Like a dove.
Steph and I had talked about our exhaustion with the vindication psalms and it truly is becoming redundant. But, at the same time, when I read this psalm and when I think about that collective groan of humanity against injustice, I think of these two kids, and I think it’s okay to look at life crossly.
But at the bottom of ourselves, there is 9-13. There is a longing. A promise.
And we hold that hope, yes, even if it’s thin as thread. Even if it’s just a seed of a thought. It’s there. And they have it to. They have a dream of what it might look like for fortune to turn their way. For their family to find it’s footing as it steps out of it’s teenage years. For things to shift, to strengthen.
For this world to progress, recover, and to one day, look something like a rescue.
What does psalm 56 bring to mind for you?
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