|April 1, 2019
By Mara Joy Norden
8 I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children. …
20 Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
21 They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Read the full psalm.
In my yard during Lent, the snow melts, and I take stock of my outdoor plants. It isn’t pretty. The voracious mint patch has choked out the salvia my mom planted two falls ago. The lilacs close to the house bow low with buds, but the lone one at the edge of the yard shows no signs of life after a late frost.
The season of Lent invites us to take stock of our spiritual lives as we wake up from the dormancy that sets in after the Christmas season. What bad habits have crept up, choking out life-giving intentions? What has died and needs to be cleared away? Where have forces outside your control caused hurt?
The author of Psalm 69 (let’s call him David) takes stock of his life and speaks the misery he finds—rejection, hatred, and harm by people who are supposed to love him. Why? Not because David has forgotten God, but precisely because he is trying to live a faithful, authentic life (vv. 9-12). The hurt runs so high and so deep that he feels like he’s drowning (v. 2). I’ve been there. Have you?
If David were standing in my Lenten garden, I imagine he would identify most with the lone lilac, isolated and barren. We might be tempted to keep quiet, but David does the most faithful thing: he speaks it before God, raw and honest. While speaking his pain, he finds the energy to pray for himself: “Rescue me from sinking in the mire” (vv. 13-14). While praying for himself, he finds the energy to remember the goodness of God: “I will praise the name of God with a song” (vv. 30-33). While remembering the goodness of God, David begins to come to life again.