16 May 2012

On Psalm 51: A Call to Go Home

There's suffering that circumstances present to us--the twisted dystopic gifts of illness that we have done nothing to deserve:  the random acts of cellular aberration; traffic accidents; innocents who die or are maimed at the hands of evil ones.  

And then there's suffering brought upon ourselves, through our own actions, misdeeds, manipulations and lies.  This is a particular form of tragic suffering, especially when it's so public.  Infidelities.  Congressional inquiries.  Indictment.  Prosecution.  Sentencing.

David betrays himself, his values, his loyal soldier, and his God in taking Bathsheba.  It's a wrenching scene.  Both seductive and mendacious.  And when he receives his rebuke from the prophet Nathan, the man he thought he was is destroyed, crushed under the weight of his own weakness.  He is left to do nothing but beg for his life.

"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me."  

What torture.  A feeling of disease, an inescapable noose around the neck.  An irremovable stain on the soul.

He is aware that his suffering must be manifested physically in order to render himself clean.  Words here are not the tools which effectuate the change--no confession is strong enough.  Rather, David is descriptive of an inner destruction whose origins are found at conception that he must make himself responsible for re-making, re-creating, for starting over.

"Behold I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me."  Not the mark of "original sin" we might know from the Christian literature but rather a recognition of fate unfolding until one reaches a moment of recognition and makes himself again.  Not re-born but re-conceived.  Through internal self-examination, introspection, stopping up old wells of brackish water and breaking one's back in the labor for new water.  Lonely, alone, sun beating down, imagining there may be no end, until, in a moment of grace, there is a new source.

"Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.  Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness that the bones which You have crushed may rejoice."

Joy and gladness in such suffering?  A God who crushes bones?  And we still talk to him?  That's the necessary laughter, so hard to conjure up and yet essential in the alleviation of pain.

Gallows humor, even, the cornerstone of a new temple to a new life.  However long it lasts; wherever it will continue.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O' God you will not despise."

To break, to rebuild.  It requires radical humility, a desperately rare commodity these days.

"Do good in your favor to Zion, build the walls of Jerusalem."

A cry from exile; a call to go home.

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