For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him.
This year, Monday Matters will focus on wisdom conveyed in the treasures of the book of Psalms. We’ll look at the psalms read in church on the day before Monday Matters comes to your screen.
My parents divorced when I was a teenager. My mother then took on a role she neither wanted nor expected. She became a single parent of four siblings, which required some courage. Each member of our family navigated the changes as best we knew how. In retrospect, there are probably lots of things each one of us would have done differently, done better. But we were a bit at sea. Ground had definitely shifted.
Perhaps looking for resources to move forward herself, my mother expanded her role as spiritual leader in the family. She looked for ways to guide us faithfully through uncharted waters. One of the things she did was invite us (no, that’s not a strong enough word), she caused us to memorize the hymn text which begins:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word.
She understood that each member of our family had experienced some shaking of the foundations. I thought of that hymn when I reflected on the psalm chosen for yesterday’s liturgies (see above). It suggests imagery that appears throughout the psalms, referring to God as rock, refuge, stronghold, firm foundation. I suspect each reader of this column has had some experience in which foundations were shaken, when sure footing seemed elusive. What was that experience for you? How did you find footing? Perhaps you’re in such a quicksandic moment this morning.
We don’t know the circumstances faced by the psalmist(s) who repeatedly refer to God as this solid footing, a shelter. But in each of these psalms, we hear a call to have trust. That need for trust has been part of the human experience ever since those psalms were written. In my moments of evening reflection, guided by meditations written by Howard Thurman, I recently came across this bit of wisdom about trust, about finding that holy support. Thurman wrote:
Teach me, O God, the simple lesson of trust. Bring into my sorely pressed spirit the sure confidence of birds floating in the sky with nothing to support them but the automatic trust of wings, or the sure confidence of fish that keeps them from drowning with nothing to save but the automatic use of their gills.
What can we learn from the birds of the air, or the fish of the sea? For that matter, what can we learn from the psalmist who claims that God is refuge and strength, that God is rock and salvation?
There are all kinds of reasons to think that such trust makes no sense, no more sense than the ability of a bird to soar. But that is the adventure of our faith. This week, carry with you the words of that familiar hymn. Here are a few more stanzas to take with you. Reflect on them. See if they apply to your life. (You’d make my mother happy, may she rest in peace.)
Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.