Ps 57:1-4 - fear
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.
4 I lie down among lions
that greedily devour human prey;
their teeth are spears and arrows,
their tongues sharp swords.
This is another of the Psalms attributed to David. Tradition tells us this prayer was inspired when David's life was threatened by the violent anger of King Saul. He goes to hide in a cave. What a poignant metaphor of the times when we are strangled by fear, isolated, alone, powerless. This is a song born of hopelessness and threat. Saul seems to hold, at this point, all the power and influence and David is trapped in a moment when he can find no way to respond with any confidence or agency. He cannot talk, plan, strategize , work or fight his way out of this situation. 'I lie down among lion,' he prays in song. The threat is great and he has no feasible strategy for rescue or relief that can ensure a safe and secure future.
We connect to this story even though our lives are often not threatened by the anger of malevolent rulers. The loss of a loved one to death or divorce, the breakup of a friendship, tension in a family can also raise within us the experience of threat and fear. It can be the pressure of work that can conjure self-doubt and thoughts of what we would do without the work and its paycheck, or perhaps even worse, the dreaded pink slip that makes our imaginations run wild with imagining the worst. And then, perhaps more subtle but no less debilitating is the fear that if people really knew us, they would no longer love and care for us. If we expressed our opinions, acted out of our truest and best selves, we would be rejected. I suspect we have all felt this way. I know at times when I feel called to preach a prophetic word that challenges the status quo that our society is comfortable with I feel that fear. So too often, we place ourselves in the cave of not being ourselves in order to survive that which we fear, being rejected.
Once again, the implications go beyond these legitimate personal concerns and into the social realm. What fear must grip even today the largely African-American residents of Flint Michigan now that they know that the water they and their children have been bathing in and drinking. There are not only the reports of sickness and disease, but also the woeful response of the bureaucrats and the knowledge that changes in the water supply that lead to this situation were made for financial reasons. Profit more important than people. Fear must grip them. Does fear grip us on their behalf?
David's complaint is a supreme act of faith. An abundant future appears impossible, yet David's lament calls for God to intervene making the impossible, possible. Faith is not hoping for the best, but crying out for God's intercession when all seems lost. Complaint then, is one of the ways that we as humans participate in God's creating and redeeming mission in the world. Complaint is the feed-back loop that calls God to liberation and rescue in a world gone wrong. When we remain silent in the face of our personal fears that reduce us, or in response to injustice that disallows the fullness of life, we are not being faithful or obedient at all. It is the most serious act of disobedience because our complacency merely encourages the powers that be to hold sway and maintain their influence. Complaint trusts that our God not only rescues, but also proclaims that God is the ultimate authority in the world, over all other earthly political powers, over all personal demons that haunt us. Complaint liberates us from our fear and liberates us to confront the powers that frighten and abuse others.
Prayer- Teach us God to be sanctified lamenters. Let our complaint not be that which leaves us trapped in a defeated mentality, but instead, that which liberates us to be hopeful. Let complaint free us from fear that causes us to deny our truest selves and leaves us complacent and complicit in the suffering of others. Let our complaints become a bold proclamation of the reality and powerful intervention of the loving and creative God who hears the cries of all you suffer.