Christianity 201

January 13, 2012

Psalm 6: I Drench My Couch with My Weeping.

Two days ago I shared a passage from The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson.  For those of you who know Peterson’s Bible translation, The Message, I hope this leaves you wanting to read some of his other writing.

After a section on the life of David which deals with the narrative of David’s story, Peterson moves on to deal with the prayers of David, particularly the penitential Psalms, beginning with Psalm 6.

(NLT) Psalm 6:1 O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger
      or discipline me in your rage.
 2 Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak.
      Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
 3 I am sick at heart.
      How long, O LORD, until you restore me?

 4 Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
      Save me because of your unfailing love.
 5 For the dead do not remember you.
      Who can praise you from the grave?

 6 I am worn out from sobbing.
      All night I flood my bed with weeping,
      drenching it with my tears.
 7 My vision is blurred by grief;
      my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

 8 Go away, all you who do evil,
      for the LORD has heard my weeping.
 9 The LORD has heard my plea;
      the LORD will answer my prayer.
 10 May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
      May they suddenly turn back in shame.

The trouble that we are born into “as sparks fly upward: (Job 5:7) provides the content to this first penitential prayer.  We are not told what the trouble is:

  • God’s anger provoked by sin (v.1)?
  • Sickness? (Healing is mentioned in vv. 2-3.)
  • Persecution? (Foes, workers of evil and enemies are referred to in vv. 7-8, 10.)

Probably all of these, but more.  The sin in the world breaks out in troubles all over the place.  Every once in a while one of the the troubles triggers an avalanche of dismay and sorrow that simply overcomes us.  There are times when an accumulated sense of the sheer mass of trouble in the world just knocks the wind out of us, knocks the prayer out of us –

  • all the sin,
  • all the sickness,
  • all the meanness:
  • damaged lives,
  • broken hearts,
  • child abuse,
  • raped women,
  • rampant hunger,
  • torture,
  • the grinding poverty of the poor,
  • the unchecked greed of the rich,
  • desecrating violations of our land and water and air,
  • brutal arrogance in high places.

Details pile up.  There is a lot wrong with the world.  We have moments when the apocalyptic brutality and blasphemy loose in the world tramples our life to the ground (Ps. 7:5).  Those moments are compounded when we realize that some of the wrong is in us – we are not just observers of it, we are part of it.  Sin is not a Them thing; it is also Us.  When the two moments come together – the Them wrongs and the Us wrongs – the hurt and hate, the guilt and sin catalyze an enormous sorrow.  We find ourselves in the middle of Psalm 6 weeping our prayer:

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief,
they grow weak because of all my foes. (Ps. 6:6-7)

The language is extravagant – crying every night and waking up with pillow and mattress tear-soaked.  But is it exaggerated?  Maybe not.  Not at least if this prayer comes out of a heart that is in touch with the catastrophic dimensions of sin and all the tears of despair and (sometimes) repentance that flow night and day, year after year pooling into a great salt sea of sorrow:

  • the tears of the lonely,
  • the tears of Rachel weeping for her children,
  • the tears of Paltiel weeping for Michal,
  • the tears of David weeping over Absalom,
  • the tears of Peter weeping outside the court of Caiaphas,
  • the tears of the women on the Via Dolorosa,
  • the tears of Jesus – weeping over Lazarus,
  • Jesus – weeping over Jerusalem,
  • Jesus – weeping in Gethsemane.

Tears, Tears, Tears.  We find ourselves swimming in a sea of tears.  **

The way of imperfection takes us through slums and suburbs, across battlefields and into refugee camps, to hospitals and homeless shelters.  We find common ground with the addicts and the abused, the victims and victimizers, the down and out and the up and out.  On the way of imperfection we find ourselves following Jesus to the well in Samaria, the sycamore tree in Jericho, the pool of Siloam, the cross on Golgotha where “Christ is in agony to the end of the world.” ***

There is much laughter and singing and dancing on this way, palm branches and hosannas.  But there are also tears and laments, rivers of them, every tear a prayer and not one unnoticed – “my tears in your bottle!” (Ps. 56:8).

~Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way pp 93-4

** The verb translated “flood” is litteraly “I swim…”  We can translate, “I swim in a river of tears.”  See Isaiah 25:11 and Ezekiel 47:5.  Charles Briggs, The Book of Psalms (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1952), vol. 1, p.50.

***Blaise Pascal, Pensees (New York: Random House, 1941), #552, p. 176.

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