1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, I pray, save my life!’
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
9 I walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I kept my faith, even when I said,
‘I am greatly afflicted’;
11 I said in my consternation,
‘Everyone is a liar.’
12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord! (NRSV)
The Psalms have always spoken to me. As a child and teenager they seemed to resonate with me in a way that sometime other parts of the Scripture did not. Especially as an angsty teenager I turned to the Psalms. It seemed then, with my limited knowledge of the depths of the Scripture, to be one of the few places where the honest truth of the heart was laid bare. It was the place that got away from all of the theology and rhetoric and instead was just about a person or a community pouring out their hearts and longings to God. As I grappled with my own queer identity I found solace in the honesty of the Psalms; the ways in which the Psalmists could say things like “The snares of death encompassed me!” (What angsty teenager doesn’t love stuff like that?)
As I moved away from my literal understandings of the Scripture I stopped reading it all together for a while. As I make my return I find that solace in the Psalms again. Here I can get away from theology and doctrine and can instead just have a conversation with God. Laying it all out there. Joy Ladin, a wonderful Jewish theologian and poet wrote a book of poems in which she reimagined the Psalms, reading them especially in light of her transition. I love her work with these texts and the way in which she reclaims this part of the Scripture. She says, this tradition belongs to me as well. You cannot exile me from the text. (Joy will be an upcoming guest on the podcast and I am so excited to have you all meet her as well).
The Psalms give us permission to grapple, to be open and honest, to grieve. They give us permission to shout and cheer and to celebrate. They give us permission to be. I love the Psalm for this coming Sunday’s lectionary. There is so much that resonates with me and my transition. The idea of being in the grave and being entangled in death, the knowledge that now I walk again in the land of the living. The ways in which God has shown up in my transition and saved my life. How good it is to be able to say “I kept my faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted’.” And now as I think about my calling, those last stanzas call to me: “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” That is how I see my ordination, my call to ministry. A giving back of what has been given to me; given to the people.
I am thankful that the Psalms allow us entry, even when we are wounded, especially when we are wounded. Thanks be to God.