Diapers and Dragons

Friday, July 24, 2009

Naught But Moving Shadows

(Originally written June 1, 2009: reposted here with minor changes due to later date)

Psalm 39 is not a cheerful one. It may be one of my favorites purely for its poetic language, however...and the lesson that is couched within its phrases. (I'm bolding the sections that struck me particularly and underlining the language that sparks the poet in me.)

1 I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
when the ungodly are around me.”
2 But as I stood there in silence—
not even speaking of good things—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:
4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude

6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.
8 Rescue me from my rebellion.
Do not let fools mock me.
9 I am silent before you; I won’t say a word,
for my punishment is from you.
10 But please stop striking me!
I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
11 When you discipline us for our sins,
you consume like a moth what is precious to us.
Each of us is but a breath. Interlude

12 Hear my prayer, O Lord!
Listen to my cries for help!
Don’t ignore my tears.
For I am your guest—
a traveler passing through,
as my ancestors were before me.
13 Leave me alone so I can smile again
before I am gone and exist no more. (Psalm 39, NLT)

At first glance it would be easy to despair over the idea that we are less than a blip on the timeline of eternity, that the agonies we experience and which seem so enormous in significance are infinitesimal in the infinitely larger view of God. And yet...isn't that the truth? And isn't there a certain measure of comfort in the idea that God is that much larger than our turmoil, that much more powerful than our despair? Pair that with Jesus's words in Matthew:

29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10: 29-31, NLT)

Suddenly there's a different understanding of it all. Yes, we are infinitely smaller in scope than God's existence. But this is the power of an omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent God--He is present in all Time and all Space and sees it all as one, rather than being limited by our linear perception.

Instead, the lesson I need to pull from Psalm 39 is that all my "busy rushing ends in nothing," that so much of what I think I need and which is precious to me is actually that which God must "consume like a moth" so that I can see and experience the truth. Many times in the last few months I have said, "I can't do this any more." I'm right--I can't. There is no strength of my own that could ever stand up to what I face.

But God has more than enough strength. I haven't been turning to Him enough, haven't been placing my faith in Him and His purpose for me, because deep down I'm terrified that the path He intends for me is far more difficult than the one I would like to take. I was reminded that my path--the one I think is right--may not be so at all. I certainly haven't done that well for the last quarter century when I've followed my own path. For, as David says,

...the Lord watches over the path of the godly,but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:6, NLT)

Some time ago a friend asked me if I thought my husband's attitude towards God and faith could be an obstacle to my own faith, should it continue for years and perhaps the remainder of our lives. The answer that came out of my mouth left me startled and wondering. "No," I said, "if anything it would make me have to depend on God even more."

And suddenly it occurred to me that what seems so obvious to me--that God needs to change my husband's heart, and change it NOW--may not be obvious to God. Not that I think God does not want my husband to turn to Him, but perhaps there are crucial lessons that He wants me to learn in the barren desert where I find myself. For too long I depended on my husband to fill the emptiness within me, something he never had any chance of accomplishing. Only a relationship with God could alter that particular desolation. So if my husband were to suddenly become all that I (in my selfishness) would like him to be--how easy would it be for me to fall into old habits of turning to him to fulfill what only God can?

God's time is not my time. I am but a guest in this life, "a traveler passing through" on my way to eternity. Rather than wandering about fruitlessly on my own, I need God to be my travel guide, and I need to trust Him to know what is best for me. For ultimately His plans for me will be infinitely better, in the scope of infinity, than anything I could come up with on my own.

8 bits of love:

The Kampers said...

Let me just say, "AMEN!" We but a vapor, and yet our God loves us desperately! How amazing! And He loves us enough to give us what is the very best, a dependency on Him. What an amazing thing!

mom said...

Last night the American team, old-timers, were asked by our short-termers to share something we've learned in our long experience here that might be of help to them. Over and over there was a theme: it's been really hard, but it's been so good. I wouldn't trade my life, nor what I've learned, nor how I've been transformed in the process. And that's what you're seeing: our Lord doesn't promise it will be easy. In fact he says it will be hard, because as soon as we become part of his Family we are "not of this world," which sets us apart, uncomfortably-- especially for others. I'm so glad you're sharing this with your diapersanddragons crowd -- I was deeply touched before, and now again. Always good to be reminded of these critical truths. Amiina! (My word verification is remal -- maybe it could be interpreted as "re: hard/bad stuff??)

Arby said...

"For too long I depended on my husband to fill the emptiness within me, something he never had any chance of accomplishing. Only a relationship with God could alter that particular desolation. So if my husband were to suddenly become all that I (in my selfishness) would like him to be--how easy would it be for me to fall into old habits of turning to him to fulfill what only God can?"

There is so much wisdom in that statement. It is the central theme of a book that both my wife and I are reading, "Families Where Grace Is In Place," by Jeff VanVonderen (Bethany House Publishers:Bloomington, 1992). That's a fantastic realization!

Draft Queen said...

Faith has always been something I've admired in people. Honestly. I admire that you are able to find strength, however hard it may seem, in your faith to get you through.

Kathleen said...

GREAT post, TeacherMommy!!

Schmoochiepoo said...

Beautiful. :)

Aludra said...

The quote that Arby inserted in his/her comment is the one I thought about putting in my comment.

That lesson is one that my husband and I learned while we were engaged and are stil married because of it. We don't expect each other to be our "Everything". That's what God is for.

And that is also one reason that Twilight fanatics annoy me so very much.

Also, I am now craving Arby's.

merideth said...

ahh, great post. you and the commenters have said everything i would have said. except this: i love how david felt free to just rail (sp?) at God and throw his every emotion at Him and still be absolutely certain of God's unfailing love for him. i need to be less timid in my conversations with God (like he doesn't already know my every thought and feeling? :D)

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