Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Waiting Game

I read Psalm 37 this morning with the kids. Once again, I am amazed by the prescription found there. I'm starting to think of Psalms as the Bible's pharmacy.

Fear? Prescription dispensed in Psalm 27
Depression? Prescription dispensed in Psalm 13
Lack of sleep? Slanderous friends? Swimming in the cesspool of your own depravity? You'll find just the cure, right there in the Psalms. I'm sure of it. 

There are a few questions I typically ask the kids as we cram around the table with all of our Bibles opened. First, what is the tone of the psalmist in this particular psalm? Some people are really affected by 'tone', as in, "I really don't like your tone." My seven year old is like that. One word spoken emphatically and out comes the lower lip; down droop the eyebrows. And behold: he's in the "I really don't like your tone" snit. Sometimes he's justified--which earns him a hug and an apology, and sometimes he's just being too sensitive--which earns him a 'get over it.'  Tone is as much a part of communication as words. And all communication has a tone. We should be listening for it, because it's a very effective tool. 

So, we look for tone in each psalm. Is he angry, fearful, snarky, peaceful, depressed, moody, thankful, prayerful?  Does the tone stay consistent throughout the psalm or does it change from beginning to end?  And if it changed, what understanding did he gain to bring about that change?

Second, how does this psalm teach us to worship God? Psalms are so real. This is one regular guy living life's ups and downs. He deals with family problems, depression, fear of death, enemies who seek his harm, his own sin, and a great big God.  Every psalm offers us a glimpse of just how big God really is, right there in the midst of life's most sanctifying trials. 

Honestly, though, the most important thing I've learned reading through Psalms is that God's Word gives us solutions, that resorting to 'therapy' or 'psychology' or 'psychiatry' which is not based nouthetically on the whole council of God often diverts us from God's solutions to man's solutions. The danger is that man's solutions come from man and are fraught with flaws.

Today, I was struck by the emphasis on fretting in Psalm 37. There's the typical dismissive shrug of the wicked, which always makes me smile, something like...
The wicked, he's a cockroach. De nada. And his guts are gonna splatter all over the fly swatter. Fuggedabowdit. He's so outta here. 
Doesn't the smug assurance of the psalmist over God's ability to deal with the wicked just crack you up?
Today's dismissal went like this: 
He's gonna wither and die like the grass.
You're gonna look for him and he won't be any more.


But then focus changed to the fretting of the righteous. Why? The kids and I mused together that if the exhortation is to not fret in the presence of the wicked, that must be because our natural reaction would be to...fret in the presence of the wicked. You know that's true; I know that's true. And, of course, someone merely telling me not to fret does not suddenly turn off my fret switch. 

The psalmist is an excellent debater, too. He knows we need a little convincing.  He reasons with us by telling us why fretting is not okay: it will only lead to evildoing. 
So, if I fret in the presence of the wicked, it will lead to evildoing? My evildoing? 
Always one step ahead of me, the psalmist gets out his pad. 
There's his pen...
Here comes the prescription...
I can't wait, because I'm a woman of action. 
Chop, chop, people. Let's solve this problem. Let's get 'er done.  And he says?

He says, "Wait." 

So, when I'm in the presence of the wicked, and they're getting away with things no decent person would do, I'm supposed to...wait. 
Not solve the problem?
Not plot their downfall?
Not lie on my bed at night and review their rap sheet and dream up all the punishment I surely hope is coming to them?
Uh, no.

Waiting is as much against my nature as fretting is natural to my nature. Waiting is hard. Waiting does not accomplish anything. Waiting means sitting still and doing nothing.  Ugh. I do not like waiting.  I do not like it, Sam-I-am. But fretting does not do anything either.  So, on its face, the solution is either fret or wait--which I translate as either accomplish nothing or accomplish nothing. 

Really, the fretter and the waiter look the same from the outside. That's because fretting and waiting are conditions of the heart and mind. Heart and mind. That's starting to sound awfully familiar. Let's climb over to the other side of that hill called Calvary and see what the New Testament has to say about ideas like fretting.  Yep. There it is.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7
From the supreme Cardiologist, Himself...
God's prescription for fretting, chronic or acute:
Take a daily dose of Thanksgiving and a supplement of Waiting.  
Do not refrigerate. 
Repeat as needed. 
Risk of addiction: High.

Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
You will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:34

1 comment:

  1. I think God really must want me to study biblical poetry! Yesterday in OT, we talked about poetry, and then chapel was in the poetry section, and you blogged about poetry. Hmm.... :)