“Truly, God is good to Israel,*
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped;*
I had almost tripped and fallen;
Because I envied the proud*
and saw the prosperity of the wicked…
When I tried to understand these things,*
it was too hard for me;
Until I entered the sanctuary of God*
and discerned the end of the wicked…
When my mind became embittered,*
I was sorely wounded in my heart…
Though my flesh and my heart should waste away,*
God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”
Psalm 73, Friday Lent Two, Evening Prayer, the Daily Office Book, Year One
Psalm 73 has such depth and richness in describing the human condition and struggle to maintain a healthy perspective regarding what is most valuable in my life. Scripture has become very beneficial to me when I have treated it as a parable and metaphor. Psalm 78:1-2 reminds me “Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.”
In this wealthy Psalm 73 I can easily see myself as Israel as “Israel” means “to wrestle with God”. I can’t think of a better name for persons of faith who are forever seeking to experience God and see God in the world and in themselves. One must search as life in God is not a stagnant thing sealed up in absolute certainty. Yes, I am certain of God’s love and that God is love, but this forever presents the challenge of understanding what it means to love. Psalm 73 presents such a wide range of struggling in what it means to love, in spite of all the distractions from love, of all the enticements to our loving things, our idolatries, material, emotional, intellectual and religious, rather than loving people and the gracious gift of life in this generous and beautiful creation.
I think this is all God is asking of me, to love God’s creation and to love God’s humanity. God keeps telling us over and over, love me by loving my creation and my people, all people. “The Lord is loving towards everyone (everyone), and his compassion covers all his works.” All his works. (Psalm 145:9) So the challenge for me, where I wrestle with God, is how to love, how to get past my pre-conceptions and biases to more fully engage in the act of loving. How much dare I imitate Jesus and engage the sacred act of vulnerability? How much do I believe, trust, in God to participate in the compassion of God, to engage the compassion of Jesus? Anyone can believe in any concept of their choosing, I can believe in God all day long, but that means nothing if I don’t trust in God enough to surrender my biases and judgementality and love as Jesus loved us.
I believe our pilgrimage is laid out in the Bible. The parable and metaphor is of our own individual lives and communities. It is for me a story of progress, of evolution, of the spiritual life of fullness promised by God found in compassionate loving. We start out raw and primitive, simple in our beliefs first to guarantee survival. We lose beliefs, admittedly or not, we all do lose faith. But we are nudged along to be liberated from our primitive bonds, towards being more loved by God as we make ourselves more vulnerable to love. Through our learning to love, in spite of our suffering--- through our suffering, we gain experience and wisdom; we develop compassion and hear our prophetic voice which leads us to Jesus the vulnerable, the pinnacle of what it means to be fully human, fully incarnate of the Spirit, fully realized in, and as, God’s love. As God’s love brought Jesus through suffering, death and resurrection, so does Jesus’s love bring us through our suffering, transforming us, resurrecting us, as we wrestle, in our lives and daily deaths, in the struggle to live more fully and deeply awake in compassion.
This is the journey and the struggle described to me in Psalm 73, the full range of what we wrestle with, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Yet, I know even when “sorely wounded in my heart”, “God”, love and compassion, “is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”