I Wonder, Psalm 63:1-8

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

I’ll admit, wondering flows much easier with narrative passages, but I think it still has something to offer for other genres included in the Bible. With the psalms the wondering shifts. It’s less inhabiting the passage and more letting the passage inhabit you. But what is it all those English teachers always told you?? Oh yes, show-don’t tell. So let’s get to wondering (just a heads up for those who like a bit more structure with their wondering, each paragraph goes with a stanza of the psalm).

I wonder what earnestly seeking looked like for David. Sure, we know the big things-Goliath, King, etc. But what did earnestly seeking look like in the day to day? Did he seek through singing, through study, through prayer? Probably all of the above. I wonder if that’s what he means by “my whole being longs for you.” His intellect longed to study the word and grow in knowledge. His spirit longed for the sweet release of song, where the music gave voice to what all the knowledge could not. Did his anxieties long for the peace that came with prayer?, where he could grow in wisdom? What would it feel like if my whole being longed for God? Have I felt that?

My church is visually striking. The sanctuary is full of beautiful stained glass. Sometimes, on a sunny day, the light streams through the window and as the choir sings a dazzling array of colors dances on my music. Is this how I see God in the sanctuary? What did David see? Did he see God’s glory both in the triumph of battle and the birth of a lamb? Were there times when the singing did not bring the sustenance he had once known? Instead of feeling fully satisfied with the richest of foods did he sometimes feel like it was day four of eating the same leftovers? How often does my song feel like a feast and how often does it feel like scraps? How often does it feel impossible to lift your hands? How hard, how necessary, to do it anyway. Did David have a congregation who could carry him when his hands were too heavy to lift high? When the song fell flat were there others who could sing for him until he was ready to sing again?

What were those thoughts in the watches of the night? I wonder if anxiety swirled around him, making sleep impossible. Was it a time praise or a time of pleading? What do I think of in the watches of the night? I wonder how much can happen in the shadow of your wings. I imagine sometimes it feels like soaring, like freedom. Other times it feels safe, like shelter. I wonder if it ever feels like the bird who is first thrown out of the nest, or the cub carried away by its mother. I imagine the clinging has a similar scope. Sometimes it is the firm embrace of a friend or a couple walking arm and arm. But sometimes it is the frantic grip of one who is drowning and finally grasps a lifeline.

Wondering is a chance to go beyond what is on the page. Another way to answer that really big question, what does this ancient, holy text have to say to me here and now. What wonderings does this psalm bring up for you?

One thought on “I Wonder, Psalm 63:1-8

  1. The most singular emotional state expressed in the Bible is “joy”. The Hebrew and Greek roots appear over 300 times in Scripture. It seems God is trying to say something here. What we call today, ‘anxiety’ ‘stress’ has no biblical language root. Closet we get are phrases like ‘troubled soul’ ‘disquiet’, ‘agitation’ which I think captures the moment. Point being in the Psalms David expressed the whole gamut of the human life experience. In 2 Samuel he is dancing in the Temple before the Ark. Seems joyful enough. A few chapters later he is sending his lovers husband off to his death. Nathan brings him down a few pegs. But such is life. We praise God for a bit of good luck, and five minutes later curse his existence when things do not work out as we wished .

    Fear, anxiety are secondary emotional states in classic Jungian therapy. The root of both is the state of Anger, or rage. Bible has lots of that too. So if David lost sleep, was anxious, was fearful, as we all are from time to time. The question I would ask, what, whom, or situation are you angry about? Again David had plenty in his life to be angry about. On the run from Saul. Hiding in caves. Death of his son to name a few. Wore sack cloths and ashes. Yet for all of that he danced before the Ark in states of pure joy. Go figure. So I wonder. Are we at this time angry with God? Angry with how life has happened to this point? What do we do with that, and where does it go? In a dry and parched land where is the water oasis? Oh there you are God, didn’t see you. My eyes were looking down. I wonder. Does God wish for us more sack cloth and ashes or dancing for joy in his Temple? Maybe a little of both, some at time same time maybe.


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