Once, in late summer, there was a woman who stood in the doorway of a farmhouse in Iowa. She leaned heavily on the frame, her hand over her mouth, not so much fighting back tears as waiting for them to come. Her son placed his bags in the trunk of the old Chevy and slammed the lid shut. With one last wave and a smile he got in the car. His father started the engine and drove away from the house down the long the dirt driveway, made a dusty turn and disappeared, swallowed by the tall corn. Her little boy was gone, really gone. He was off to war.
The tears were coming now. She watched for a long time, still feeling his embrace, his kiss on her cheek, his words of reassurance. Finally, she turned on the old oak floor. The screen door clapped quietly behind her as she slowly walked to the kitchen, sat down at the table and opened her Bible. She turned to the Psalms. She searched and found words that came from someone else, long ago, who sought comfort. Now these words sought her; pleading words, words heavy with concern, seeking protection and guidance for one who was loved. As she read, she prayed. The psalmists words and her own became one.
There are stories behind the Psalms. Stories of flesh and blood and God. Like you, people felt things, knew things, saw things. And in the feeling and the knowing and the seeing God was there. Sometimes this simple insight eludes us. We see the words, printed and published, and forget that hurts and hopes, joys and sorrows gave birth to these words. A man struggles with the loss of friendship and betrayal; a warrior gives thanks for victory after the sweat, blood and terror of battle; a thankful man, who happens to be a priest, pens words of thanksgiving and invites others to sing them with joy, from the heart. And there are laments. Most of the psalms, the majority in fact, are laments. Sorrows, fears, griefs, anger and bitterness pour out of them like a flood; the same way they pour out of you and me when we are in those places.
I call these ‘Psalm Places’, these times and places when we search for words to express the depth of our faith, or lack of it, the depth of our feeling. And isn’t this why God has given us these words? Like our Lord Jesus Himself, they remind us that nothing in our experience is alien to God.
If the Living Word of God would come in the lament of the psalmist, the cross of a young man, and if that same Word would sit at the kitchen table with a weeping woman on a late summer day, in a small farmhouse in Iowa, then that Word will meet you in your ‘Psalm Places’, too.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”