Think on these words . . .
God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. (Psalm 46:1-2)
"Step out of the traffic! Takle a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything." (Psalm 46:10)
More familiar might be the words: "God is our refuge and strength . . ." The psalmist goes on to express his belief that God is as a rock, unshakeable, immovable, our refuge in times of trouble. In my first year of ordained ministry I was given the task to officiate at a memorial service for a young woman that I did not know. She had been an addict, trying to put her life back together; she was a single mother of a four year old and had committed suicide. Her family had brought her to church a couple of times, but nothing was known about her personal belief. It was hard not to judge her. I had only heard about the depths of addiction. I didn't know what demons were present in her, but I did believe that leaving a small child motherless was selfish. I wasn't about to stand in the pulpit and speak of "a better place" or say that "one day you'll see her again." As I prayed for direction, I turned to Psalm 46. Friends and family would be present and they needed to be assured of God's goodness in the face of tragedy. I knew little or nothing about the woman, but I knew the truth about God.
There are days in our lives when we might want to pull the covers up over our heads and not have to be present in the world. We want to hide. The psalmist doesn't advocate avoiding the day or the troubles that prompt our desire to hide under the covers. Instead, he begins by saying that God is a safe place to hide. Other places we read that God keeps us safe under the shelter of his wing and we visualize a mother hen protecting her chicks beneath her wing. Or, we are warmed by memories of children or grandchildren who seek the comfort of your lap and loving arms. I see God that way--with open arms, waiting to enfold and comfort me.
But, that's not all. Because of the refuge we have and the strengh that empowers us, we can be fearless in the face of anything that threatens our lives. I have never been in a storm at sea, but have seen vivid portrayals of destruction brought about by such storms. Remember Jonah? He was in a storm so devastating that cargo was being thrown overboard in an effort to "right" the ship. In my mind I see people clinging for dear life to something stable in order not to slip into the deadly waters. Yet, the image the psalmist gives is one who is able to stand in such a storm. I had to be told that we had had an earthquake one day when we lived in California, but many can relate to the terror associated with earthquakes. You are utterly helpless--the earth beneath may swallow you and the structures above might crush you as they fall. The imagery is frightening. Life is uncertain; suffering is a given. How can we endure without God as our refuge?
The psalm has three stanzas, each closing with these words: Jacob-wrestling god fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. THAT is assurance! If the imagery above is frightening, this one is more certain.
Last week I wrote of drowning in a sea of words. This week my exasperation came in the form of a telephone survey regarding political things. Usually I very quickly tell the caller that I do not wish to participate and hang up. This particular afternoon I didn't. Maybe I was curious because the caller's English was so broken that I had trouble understanding her or because of her interesting manner. At the beginning, I missed who exactly was conducting the survey and was not told how it would be used. After answering her questions as best I could, I asked if she could tell me who was originating the survey. She replied that she would have to ask her supervisor. I waited a couple of minutes for her to return to the line, only to be told that she could not answer my question. Politely, I said that, in the future, I would be sure to know that before I answered any questions. Dumb me. I should have been more careful. Since then I have wondered: what political party was gathering information? what good were my answers? who really cares?
Mainly I have been irked by the deception!
The upcoming election is frustrating to me. Neither candidate, nor party meets with my approval. Literally, it has become a war of words. Too many politicians saying what they think they need to say to get elected, not to be of service, but to satisfy some inner ambition for personal gain. Would that we all would ask, like Solomon, for God's wisdom in all things!
And then, this morning I read Psalm 46 and saw: "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything."
Amen and amen!