Song 5

plant blooming from chained flower pot
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joost-ijmuiden/5174371841/">Joost J. Bakker</a>

Psalm 5

Let me bend your ear, God.
Hear how troubled I am.
Listen to my call, my prayer to you,
My God, my boss.

God, in the morning you hear me speak.
In the morning I make my case, and then I wait.

God, you’re not the kind who revels in wrong.
Evil won’t hang out with you.
Braggers can’t meet your gaze.
You hate evildoers.
You annihilate liars.
God detests violence and dishonesty.

As for me, I will enter your house
Because you love me.
In your temple, I’ll bow toward you
And respect you.

Consider my enemies,
And clear the way for me
So I can go the right way.
They can’t tell the truth.
They’re bent on destruction.
Their throats are open graves.
They have forked tongues.
Let them get what’s coming to them, God.
Let them be on the receiving end of their own schemes.
Let them be thrown out
Because they’ve crossed the line.
It’s you they’ve betrayed.

Even so, let everyone who remains true rejoice,
And sing with joy.
Surround them with your protection
So they can shower their love on you.
God, you bless the good,
And your kindness is their shield.

While this is similar to Song 3, in it’s pleading for help in the struggle against enemies, this song takes a much more humble, and ultimately more powerful, approach.

Rather than invoking God to break and smash the opposition, this song expresses the longing that those who act treacherously would simply fall into their own traps, and that meanwhile that God would protect the innocent from coming to harm.

Rather than taking the opposition to war, in this song, the singer takes the enemy to court. The clever part about the case is that it shifts the identity of the victim. The victim isn’t the singer, it’s God: “It’s you they’ve betrayed.”

Maybe psychologists would call this transference. If that’s what it is, then it’s a healthy kind of transference, because it gets you out from under being a victim. If the victim is God, then God can take care of it – however God likes. It’s not anything that need concern the singer any longer. The singer is free.

Quite often the most paralyzing aspect of our situation is that we feel (rightly or wrongly) that we’re the victim. “They” did such-and-such to us. “They” won’t let us. “They” say this about us. Or, perhaps we’re a victim of circumstance. A downturn in the market. A bad company policy. A rainy day. The wrongdoings that we’ve suffered may indeed be real, but the longer we play the victim, the longer we extend the pain they cause us.

Giving your troubles to God doesn’t mean you’ll never have to deal with troubles, but if you’re no longer a victim, you can find a great deal more freedom for dealing with them when they come.

Maybe You Are a Victim, But…

pleading rocks
Photo credit: Patrick Tanguay

Isaiah 64:1-9

God,
if only you would rip through the sky and show up
the mountains would erupt to see you,
the fire would kindle the deadwood
and the streams would boil.

If you would reveal your name to your enemies
the nations would cower before you,
like when you did all those awesome unexpected things,
when you came down and the mountains erupted.

From the beginning, no one has heard or seen
any god but you, who are on the side of the faithful.
You do right by those who willingly do right – those who acknowledge you.

But we screwed up and you got angry,
and when we got it wrong you went into hiding.
And now we are all contaminated,
so that even what we do right turns out a bloody mess.
We shrivel like leaves, and like wind our injustice blows us away.

No one is left to call you,
or even to try to reach you,
because you’re hiding,
and you’ve abandoned us to come what may.

And yet, God, you are our creator.
We are clay. You are the potter.
You handcrafted us.

Chill out, God!
Don’t hold our mistakes against us forever.
We’re your people. All of us.

Of all the gamut of human emotion, the feeling of abandonment must be up there among the worst. Betrayal followed by utter loneliness. Worse, when the abandonment is perpetrated by God.

Here, the community in exile in the memory of Isaiah pleads with God who, like a spoiled child, or a fickle lover, or an immature parent, is using withdrawal as punishment.

The prayer begins in reflection and ends in accusation: “Maybe we really did do something to deserve this. We’re not sure what it was, but we’ll admit to being wrong if only you’ll come out of hiding. But in the end, it’s God who needs to get over it. A God who made us ought to know that to err is human. Meanwhile, we’re just going to wallow in nostalgia for a past that never really was as good as we remember it.”

But, of course, God never does show up on demand when and where we want God to. And no amount of psychological game playing works to manipulate God the way we can sometimes manipulate one another. The game playing is, in fact, part of the mistake the people are continuing to make. They have all the right words to describe God: powerful, creator, awesome, unique. But still, they’re trying to use manipulation to get their way.

Perhaps, if they stopped blaming God for their situation and imploring God to get over it, they would find that God is not hiding, but waiting for them to stop hiding. Behind playing the victim.

I’m not saying that some people aren’t victims. Or that victims are to blame for what has happened to them. Or that people shouldn’t seek justice. But it’s one thing to be a victim and another entirely to allow being a victim to define who you are.