Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Guess What!

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. 

We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
Ps 79:1-5
My mind is not inclined to think the right thoughts. I read the opening of Psalm 79 and I automatically think, What if these horrible things happened to me? How would I react? Would I have enough faith to trust God for deliverance, even if I believed God had brought on the calamity?

But guess what!

What if I'm not the possible victim, but the probable perpetrator? What if it's my people—in the name of principles which I myself hold dear (or even benefit from)—who have defiled the heritage of another nation? Once I start along that path, my mind automatically wanders over to Iraq and Afghanistan. People in those countries certainly have grievances against my country. 

But guess what! 
I don't have to go halfway around the world (though maybe I should) to discover that I might be part of the them and not the us, because in my little lock box is the deed to a house that sits on stolen land. Perhaps the Cherokee and the Chickasaw and the Creek didn't know the Psalms of David, but they must have been praying prayers similar to Psalm 79 to the Creator of the universe as they experienced invasion, deportation, and the theft of their own land. And I don't even have the decency to know exactly whose land it was that my little house sits on.

Perhaps I should use today's devotion to meditate on European crimes against indigenous Americans. But I will instead meditate on a different kind of selfishness: the tendency I have to assume I'm the victim, and my refusal to look at the ways I might be the one doing the victimizing. I like to place myself in Israel's shoes (or sandals) when I read the psalms, but there are times when it benefits me more to realize that the psalm isn't about me. Sometimes I need to remember the immigrant, the victim of war or oppression far away, or the people whose land I'm living on.

Forgive me, Lord, not just for benefiting from the oppression of others, but for doing so thoughtlessly. Forgive my tendency to read the psalms and identify with the oppressed, when I am, in fact, part of their oppression. Help me to rely less on the excess to which I've grown accustomed that I might be part of a solution that helps all your children thrive, and which makes peace in a world that is obsessed with displacement and division. I pray this in the Name of the One who taught me to pray...