Fret not... you belong!

Psalm 37 begins, "do not fret because of the wicked" and keeps getting better and better. Scholars say it is one of twelve acrostic psalms - a collection of aphorisms and wisdom saying arranged according to the Hebrew alphabet - that urges the young reader to nurture the elder's "long view of patience."

Tradition also invites us to "listen" to this psalm more as an insight from the Holy rather than a prayer of intention. Patrick Henry Reardon writes: So how does one pray such a psalm? To begin with, by respecting its tone, which is one of admonition, warning and promise. Surely prayer is talking to God, but it also involves listening to God, and this is a psalm in which one will do more listening than talking. It is a psalm in which the believer prays by placing his/her heart open and receptive to God's word of admonition, warning and promise. (Christ in the Psalms, Reardon, p. 71) In this we begin to hear insights for soul construction:

+ Do not fret...

+ Trust and do good...

+ Be still... and wait patiently...

+ Do not fret - it only leads to evil...

+ The meek (that is the patient) shall inherit the earth...

+ Wait for the Lord and keep to God's ways...

I know that I am not particularly good at waiting - I do not have the gift of patience - and I know more about fretting than letting it go. So why bother? I think it has something to do with trusting, knowing and experiencing that we belong to the Lord. Don Postema says it so well:

Most of us know that feeling of being alone, isolated. It's not the same as choosing to be alone once in a while, or being independent at times. It's the feeling that no one is near, that no one remembers, that no one cares for my soul (Psalms 142: 4) or that there is no one to live for. It's a feeling of deep isolation, of not belonging to anyone. And when we have that feeling, the cry, "to whom do I belong?" is one of distress and longing.

And so the wise elder of Psalm 37 encourages us to put take stock of our feelings but not to make them into idols. "Can a woman forget the infant at her breast," asks the prophet Isaiah? "Or a loving mother the child of her womb? Even these forget, yet I will not forget you... I have engraved them on the palms of my hand" says the One who is Holy (Isaiah 49: 15-16) I am very moved by the wisdom of another elder, Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk:

Belonging and alienation are words that speak to us today. We know what alienation is on the personal level, on the social level and on the religious level. Alienation means out utmost misery. The opposite of alienation is belonging. Translated into our terms, the message of Jesus is: you belong! You don't have to earn it, this ultimate belonging, it is a given fact. It's the most basic truth of your life. Don't you know that in your hearts?... Christ urges us - pleads with us - and pokes us to accept our belonging. Snap out of your alienation. Don't hang on to your private little self. Open yourself to the gift of belonging. All the joy of heaven is yours for the taking - no, for the giving of yourself. That is God's kingdom and conversion - and that is what Jesus preached.

And I have to practice letting go of my fretting so that I can receive the blessing of belonging. Today we began the day by eating muffins and reading the Times. Later we will nap and then join the kids at a Wailin' Jennys' concert: I need times to practice not fretting - then I feel alive - and live like I am connected.

Comments

SGF said…
Wow! You must have written this post for me! Just kidding, but defintely words of wisdom and insight into life that we should not ignore!
RJ said…
Funny you say that, my friend. I was just talking to myself, but like they say, that is almost always the most universal insight, too. Hope you are resting some... we are off to be with some of our kids in NoHo in a few minutes: dinner, conversation and the Wailin' Jennys concert. Such great young people and a blessing to be so close. Take care!

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