Engage and Engaging
The Psalms are effective because of their language. The language of the Psalm is rich, powerful. It is dynamic; it moves and ebbs. It flows. Psalm language uses metaphors and symbols.
The Psalms understand God as the One who engages and is engaging. God has a will for us and seeks us. We have a will. The question is, will we seek God? The life of the spirit is one of seeking and finding.
Everyone is seeking. The question is whether we find anything…or anyone? Our movement through the day is seeking. We have a job, but often are seeking another one. We might have a job, but does it matter. If we pay attention, there are questions all over the place. And usually questions are a form of seeking. For example, once upon a time, I had to take chemotherapy. As I would go into the hospital to get the treatment, I wondered whether I would get sick? Back in the day when I had kids, we wondered whether we would have a girl or a boy?
The language of the Psalms helps us realize that all life is a religious pilgrimage. I understand that not everyone would call his or her trip through life a “religious pilgrimage.” I assume an atheist would not describe it that way. But surely we are on a journey through life. I call it a religious pilgrimage because I want my journey through life to have some meaning and purpose. I don’t want to be on my deathbed and say, “Shoot, life is over and I never did anything worthwhile.”
I know there are many different ways to imagine this life journey. If I were to borrow an old image, I could symbolize the journey of life like a Pac Man eating up our days. Yesterday has been gobbled. Today is being eaten. Tomorrow is a looming victim. Here comes the Pac Man…chomp, chomp, chomp!
But the Psalmist does not speak of Pac Man. The Psalmist knows about God and speaks about that God. God knows that we all are on a religious pilgrimage¾a seeking¾for that One who created us in the divine image. But like Pac Man, God is after us. God is seeking us. God wants to engage and to be engaging. And the result of that engaging Divine One is that we are destined to be found in the loving protection of this God who loves us.
Much of the language of the Psalms describes this engaging God. Some of Psalm language narrates what engaging this God brings to us. Some Psalm language actually tells us what to do and how to behave. There is sage advice in those 150 Psalms. It is a good book for the religious pilgrimage.
For example, I am stirred by the words of the early verses of Psalm 17. It begins, “Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.” This is our daily seeking: Hear me, Lord. This petition beats getting out of bed and saying, “Good morning!” I am going to try to follow this advice. I want to pop out of bed and say, “Hear, O Lord…hear my plea, O Lord. Be present to me this day. God be with me on my way.”
The eighth verse of Psalm 17 finishes my prayer. “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” I love this language. I am sure some folks have heard these words and had no clue it was in the Bible---in the Psalms. It is nice to know this. It is even better to act on this knowledge.
To act on it would move us to offer ourselves to this God¾we are apples in God’s eyes and we hide from harm under protective wings. To be the apple of God’s eyes means that you and I are precious. We have this treasure in earthen vessels. After getting out of bed and engaging the Holy One, I want to stay engaged throughout my day. I want to say to God, “Hear, O Lord---and keep hearing me.” I ask God to be present to me throughout the day. And with this Divine Presence, I pray that I can be present---present to all those who come my way. I want to be present to all the opportunities that are given me.
I want this day to be a day that really counts on my religious pilgrimage through life. Just as I don’t want to be on my deathbed and be disappointed, neither do I want to go to sleep tonight and be disappointed.
Not only do I want to win my life’s race, I want to win the race today. The neat thing about winning my race is that does not mean you have to lose your race. In God’s world, every one of us can be a winner! What does it mean to be a winner? This is where I turn back to my sense that the journey for me is a religious pilgrimage.
A winner on this pilgrimage to be a winner is to be caring and loving with those with whom you engage. It is to live with justice and to bring justice to every situation you can. Winning is to become a peacemaker. You seek to bring harmony to your little world. And finally, you become a blessing and your presence blesses.