Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Borders of Desperation

Give ear to my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me; I am troubled in my complaint. I am distraught by the noise of the enemy, because of the clamor of the wicked. For they bring trouble upon me, and in anger they cherish enmity against me.
My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, 'O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; truly, I would flee far away; I would lodge in the wilderness...

I would hurry to find a shelter for myself from the raging wind and tempest.'
Ps 55:1-8

In commenting on this psalm, Calvin seems sure "that these are the words of a man driven to the borders of desperation." And so it is in the context of the desperation only a refugee can understand that we might interpret Psalm 55. Reading David's prayer that wished for the wings of a dove so that he could fly to safety, I can't help but picture wanderers in the desert for whom some kind soul has left a store of water, but which the wicked have emptied spitefully into the sand. I try to describe the motivation of the person who would do this—hatred, terrorism—but in reality words escape me. 

Often, I read the psalms mistakenly trying to picture the hypothetical context in which I would pray them, when I should be picturing the real lives of those who aren't just praying them but living them. I should spare a thought, too, not just for the soul in danger, but those who caused the terror from which they're fleeing, and those who have set another trap for them once they have escaped one dangerous situation only to be delivered into another.

I lift up to you in prayer, O God, all those who are fleeing terror this day. Keep them safe on the road, and guide them to people who will provide safety and shelter as they travel. 
I pray, too, that you will change the hearts of those who forced them from their homes—those whose violence and selfishness make the lives of your little ones miserable. 
Next I pray that you will stay the hands of those who have set a trap for them in the place of refuge. 
And finally I pray for myself, the one who pays the salary of those who intentionally sabotage the journey in the desert of those who are in danger, and who foots the bill for the internment camps. For some I can pray for a change of heart; but for myself I must pray for pardon and for the courage to act on what my changed heart knows to be the right thing; in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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