Psalm 27 – Stay

At the start of the year, it is relatively easy to stay close to the Source of our Song and Salvation. Our spirits are high; we feel energized and refreshed following a time of rest; and the newness of it all has us imagining the best case scenarios of how we intend life to be.

But by the time that Easter rolls around, our energy and enthusiasms seems to dissipate; our song gets a little softer, our worship a little flatter; other priorities seem to take over; and our presence in the house of God becomes less and less regular – despite the fact that we know deep down inside that being in the presence of God is exactly where we NEED to be.

Today, David – the poet king – urges us:

Stay with God.
Take heart.
Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God!

I’ve been wondering why it is so hard to stay with God our whole lives long; to contemplate God’s beauty; to study at God’s feet; to place ourselves consistently in the only quiet, secure spot in the whole wide world. Psalm 27 speaks to four specific enemies that not just lure us off God’s well-lighted paths into sinking sand, but that attack us, bully us, and besiege us until we’ve forgotten entirely about God as our Refuge and Retreat.

In the image of vandal hordes riding down on us, ready to eat us alive, we find a terrifying introduction to the enemy of fear.

Those who have been raped, mugged, hijacked, held up in their homes, diagnosed with terminal illness, evicted from their job and regular source of income, thrown out onto the street etc. can testify to the power of fear as the enemy who …

… makes us forget or disbelieve that God is on our side …
… sets us scrambling for control, struggling in our own strength to find a safe way out …
… tells us we’re on our own and overwhelms our resourcefulness …
… obliterates our capacity for reasoned, rational thought …
… robs us of our freedom, locks us in our homes, imprisons us in our trauma …
… leaves us feeling shaky and powerless.

A no-less-intrusive enemy – and one, in fact, that we often invite into our lives is noise.

If God’s house is the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world … the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic which we all abhor, why is it that we can’t seem to make it through the day without detaching our cellphones from our hands or our headsets from our ears?

Gone are the days of solitude and silence which helped us to stay with God in every moment. Instead, we plug into the news on the car radio, disengage from the worries of work through the television or mindless tablet games, and compulsively update our social media status as though our family and friends care intimately about what and where we’ve just eaten.

Noise …

… distracts us …
… takes our minds off of how we’re actually doing …
… anaesthetises us when we don’t like how we’re feeling …
… compensates for a sense of boredom, or futility, or frustration with our lives.

Worst of all, noise drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit who assures us that God is near and keeps us on the well-lit path.

Besides external noise, deep within our psyche lies an insidious enemy: inadequacy.

Isn’t it ironic that even as David hears the whisper of his heart to seek God, he recalls God’s faithfulness – “you’ve always been right there for me … you’ve always kept the door open”   – and immediately demand that God not play hide-and-seek with him in that important moment: “don’t hide from me,” “don’t turn your back on me,” “don’t throw me out,” “don’t abandon me.”

Lurking within most us is a hidden sense of brokenness: inadequacy whispers cruelly that we’re not worthy …
… not worthy of time …
… not worthy of affirmation …
… not worthy of love …
… not worthy of loyalty.

And because we feel so inadequate, we’re always rushing around, trying to be in control; trying to make people and plans turn out the way that we have dreamed and desired.

And we’re always looking for the inadequacies in others – as if their faults, their failings, their shortcomings somehow lessen our own.

And we’re always waiting – worrying deep inside –
… for them to walk away …
… to abandon us …
… to move on to someone, or something, better.

Sometimes we even give them a push (or several) to help them prove what we’ve already known. And sometimes we cling to them desperately, putting our own wellbeing aside to make ourselves absolutely indispensable to them.

But the trickiest enemy of all is that of dishonesty.

David prays:

“Point me down your highway, God;
direct me along a well-lighted street …

don’t throw me to the dogs,
those liars who are out to get me ….”

Most people won’t simply make up blatant untruths about us; they’ll put their spin, their interpretation on our words or actions, and suddenly …
… we find ourselves being treated differently by others …
… we’re sucked in to the need to protect and defend ourselves; to explain what we actually did or said and why …
… we find ourselves going on the attack, seeking revenge, plotting to annihilate the one who has brought our good name into disrepute….

Yet, what makes dishonesty so tricky is how frequently we lie to ourselves, because when we have walked on a well-lighted path and someone tries to blemish our reputation, others will probably just shrug it off, “Yvonne? I don’t believe that.” In fact, they would probably think less of the one who had tried to lessen us.

But when we have dappled in the darkness ourselves; when we have stepped into the shadows from time to time; when we have run others down; when we have told little lies (and large ones) to keep ourselves out of trouble; when we have made promises that we have broken over and over again, then we put ourselves in a place of great vulnerability from which only God can rescue us.

***

There is a lovely Gaelic prayer about enemies which reads:

May those who love us, love us.
And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles
so we know them by their limping.

If only the enemies of fearnoiseinadequacy, and dishonesty were as easy to identify and avoid. When they attack, when they seek to pull us down, may we courageously declare to them, “I choose to stay with God. At God’s feet I will find all I need to see me through this trouble, to defeat my enemies.”

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