A regular reader of this inspirational reflection series knows that one of my spiritual disciplines is to spend a little daily time with the lectionary. A lectionary simply is a group of readings. Lectio in Latin means to “read.” The lectionary I follow comes from the world of Benedictine monks. The traditional Benedictine monastery used to have seven periods during the day when the monks would gather for worship. Most monasteries today have reduced this to four or five daily gatherings.
The lectionary readings have been chosen by representatives of the group. Hence for the Benedictines they know every monastery across the land is reading the same set of readings at the same appointed gathering. The Psalms play a central role in the lectionary. Every Benedictine monastery would read from the Psalms at every gathering. For one who grew up as a Quaker, this was a totally new experience. As I have hung around monasteries, I have come to appreciate the heavy use of the Psalms.
I often do the readings for the morning service (called Lauds) or for the evening prayer or the one after evening prayer called Compline (from the Latin meaning to “complete” or “finish”). The reading for evening last night I found particularly moving. The opening Psalm for that particular gather came from Psalm 132. The opening verse calls for God to remember David. We read, “O Lord, remember in David’s favour all the hardships he endured.”
The word that jumps out to me in this verse is “hardship.” The Psalms are always willing to take on the tough things we all experience in life. It is nice when things go well. It is great when life is joyous and we are happy. It is fantastic when the news is good and life is a blast. But all of us have lived long enough to know this perspective in life is not a given or guaranteed. There do come times best described as hardships.
I think hardships test one’s soul much more than the good times. Good times are easy. Hard times are demanding. They usually feel deeper. The hurt may last longer. These are the times when our spiritual journey is tested. It is often a time of prayer, patience and persistence. The key is what David did: to endure. For me hanging in there is much easy if I have a heart of faith and some friends to be with me and care for me.
If we read on in the Psalm, we get a sense of what David did. We read “how he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob…” In effect, David made a promise. I find it fascinating to watch what his promise was. He did not promise something “if God got him out of the hardship.” I think David knew he was in a tough spot and he was not sure he would get out of it. This reminds me of so many people with whom I have been in the hospice program. They know they will not get a miraculous healing. But they begin to learn about a deeper healing---often a healing unto death.
We read about David’s vow. He says, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids…” Clearly, I have broken off this sentence in mid-sentence. David is saying that he won’t do some things. The sentence begs to have the word, “until.” I won’t do certain things “until…” So we need to read further.
David says he won’t do certain things “until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling-place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” I am a little surprised and fascinated by what David is promising to do. Interestingly, he does not ask to be delivered from the hardships. Instead he says he will find a place for God. The second thing he wants to do is a different way of saying the same thing: to find a dwelling place for God.
I think what David says is how necessary it is to have God in his life. He wants God in his heart (the “dwelling place”). I am sure he thinks that if he has God dwelling in his heart, then he can cope with any hardship. In fact, that is probably the only way to cope with and, perhaps, overcome a hardship that may never be taken away from us.
It is easy for me to plug myself into the story along with David. And the nice thing is to ponder this apart from any hardship I may be having. We can take a preventative approach by asking: do I have a place for God? This is not a building question; it is a heart question.
Do I have a place for God in my heart—my inner core? Have I provided a dwelling place for the Holy One deep within myself? Have I constructed an inner sanctuary of the soul where the Divinity and I can meet and be in communication and communion? This is the work of the soul---soul work at its best. Do you have a place for the Lord?