The Unhappiest Psalm (a poetic reflection on Psalm 88)
Without a doubt, it’s the unhappiest psalm.
Not the grossest one,
not the most shocking one,
but definitely the unhappiest one.
It doesn’t even follow the rules.
Most of the psalms start
by telling God we recognize the Divine Awesomeness
that comprises God.
Then we say what’s on our mind,
and then we thank God for all the Divine Awesomeness
of which we believe that God is capable.
Alas, not Psalm 88.
It seems like an island of abject grief
floating in an ocean of out-of-reach awesomeness…
And on the island
resides someone who is so deep in grief
God appears to be the perpetrator
rather than a companion.
It ends darkly, silently…
and waiting in the dark.
It’s so uncomfortable a psalm
that the Revised Common Lectionary
that we use on Sundays
I’ve always wondered what it was like
that day, way back when,
When that decision was made.
Was it because it was so depressive?
Was it because it didn’t fit the “formula”
and there was doubt regarding its value or authenticity?
I skip this one sometimes
when I’m saying the Daily Office
because it’s just too heavy
on the days I don’t need more heavy.
(I get that way about Psalm 137 sometimes too.
Sometimes I’m not in the mood
to hear about baby heads being dashed on rocks.)
But then I am reminded
it might be EXACTLY why this psalm is here.
I have had times in my life
where God really did feel absent
and I was not even convinced
That God existed.
Yet I still yelled at God
and the yelling seemed important,
even if it was a little misplaced.
Or times in my life
that I poured my heart out to God
and all I could hear
when I stopped
was the whistling of the wind
or the chirping of crickets
(literally and figuratively.)
Yet, with time,
God revealed that presence of the Divine Self,
almost never in the way I expected or demanded.
It’s only through the retrospectoscope,
that it became apparent
that God really was there,
but the silence was meant to give me and my broken emotions
time to catch up.
beginning a third year
where I’m experiencing
new levels of inhumanity
and new levels of “self above all”
I need this psalm more than ever
If only to remind me that
there is a holiness
In my own despair
That I need time to explore.
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO.
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