Friday, May 26, 2017

The Psalm of Lament - I Mean "Ascent"

I leave for Israel tomorrow. Tomorrow. TOMORROW! 

A photo I took of Jerusalem in 1982 when I was 13.

We've been planning this trip for almost a year. Well, actually, my husband has been doing all the planning. I've been anticipating. 

Anticipating the joy of walking Jerusalem with my family. 

Anticipating the power of returning to Masada, the site of my Bat Mitzvah. 

Anticipating the grip of the Holy Sepulchre and the pit and the garden tomb - places my Jewish family never visited because, well, we were Jewish. 

Anticipating, anticipating, anticipating!

What I did not anticipate, however, was that my daughter's spring musical tech/production week would be this week. Or that I would be organizing a pastors' conference taking place this week. Or that my daughter and I would both be battling a nasty virus for the past ten days (a visit to the doctor is on my agenda for today).  Or that someone would hit my parked car outside the mall. Or that my sixteen-year-old would get pulled over because his mother neglected to renew the registration. Oh, and final exams for both teenage kids. 

I did not anticipate being physically and emotionally exhausted. Completely tapped out. No. I'd pridefully anticipated sweeping into Jerusalem as the inspiring spiritual leader. The magnanimous dispenser of pearls of wisdom and insight and excitement. 

Instead, I feel like I'm limping to Jerusalem.  In the midst of this week' unanticipated chaos, I realized I needed to get my heart and mind right. 

So I turned to the Psalms of Ascent.  

These are the fifteen Psalms that Jewish families and communities would sing together as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage feasts. I just knew these Psalms would inspire me. They would be the spiritual antidote to my stress and fatigue as I begin my own pilgrimage to Jerusalem, just like my ancestors. (Well, not exactly like my ancestors - I'm flying.)

So I settled in for the first Psalm of Ascent (120), and was met with...a list of complaints! 

What?!? This was not what I'd anticipated, and certainly not what I thought I needed. I double-checked my Scripture reference; surely God didn't ordain for the pilgrimage to start with a "woe is me" attitude. I was already there, I was looking to be inspired out of my woes. 

And suddenly, I was. As I contemplated King David's lament, the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to this reality:  The very reason I need to ascend, the very reason I need to lift my eyes and my heart to God's throne, is that I dwell in a broken world, and experience broken dreams, broken relationships, broken health. Broken anticipations. 

Psalm 120 reminds pilgrims why we're pilgrimaging in the first place. 

And it reminds me that in order to actually ascend, I have to start low. Humbled. With my eyes lifted to the One seated on the throne, as I put one foot in front of the other towards Him. That the antidote to the problems and complaints around me and within me is to get out of that place and move toward God.  And do it in the midst of community, with other broken pilgrims, encouraging one another along the way and leaving our complaints behind, at the bottom of the hill. 

David's lament of lying lips and warrior's arrows and peace-haters isn't meant to depress him. Or me. Or you. 

The first Psalm of Ascent is meant to remind us of the very reason we ascend the hill in the first place:  To worship and to be loved by the One who restores brokenness. Who radiates beauty. Who breathes new life into dry bones. 

I'm ready.