Archive for April 2012

Other people’s problems   Leave a comment

You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a thing of horror to them. (Psalm 88:8)

Scripture is not designed for private devotion alone. Written mostly by a people for a people, not by an individual for individuals, the texts address public and communal concerns as much if not more than matters of personal piety.

That said, many of the Psalms of the Bible speak the voice of an individual. Inasmuch as the personal pronouns may speak symbolically on behalf of a people, not a person, nonetheless in reading them one pictures or hears a singular voice articulating individual concerns. Often these concerns are not those that the reader currently share. It as though you are eavesdropping into someone else’s prayers.

Such is the case here in Psalm 88, where we overhear the groans of someone suffering great anguish and shame. He has been shunned and scorned by everyone around him, inluding his former friends and neighbors. All seems lost, and God, it seems, is to blame. “You have put me in the depths of the Pit,” he cries. The one scorned offers no sense that he is to blame. No misdeed, no transgression, it seems, can explain why he is so down and low.

Today’s Post has an article about John Edwards, who also finds himself in the Pit of shame and abandoned by friends as a result of his marital infedilities and their subsequent cover up. I don’t want to get into a place of jdugment here, but am struck by his sense that he is being singled out unfairly, that he is being punished to a greater extent than other politicians who have similarly strayed and erred.

One wonders then if Psalm 88 is his prayer.

And this is the beauty of Scripture, when we read it not only as a tool of our own private devotion, but as a means to hear the cries of those in situations far different than our own. We may not agree with them, or have sympathy for them, but in hearing their voice, in hearing them cry out to God in desperation and anger, we become connected to them. We wait and see with them what God will do. And in our best moments, we hope for mercy and the joy of a second chance, because deep down, we all know that we’ll need one ourselves someday.


Posted April 12, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized