Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My mother, the theologian

So. With all the "living" I've been doing, hanging on by the seat of my pants, getting by on the skin of my teeth, my contemplative life has been pretty much nil.

Instead of reading and praying and going for walks, I pick up the phone to call my mom or Sally in Michigan. If they aren't home, I try Emily in Russia, or Lilly in Maryland. I get online. I tweet, or play game upon game of Free Cell. (I did play solitaire with real cards for a while, but the colder weather necessitates a comforter on my bed and it's too bumpy for real cards.) I watch episode upon episode of Bones.

But this morning, when I chatted with my mother, as I tried to dust the sand from my sleepy eyes, she was in the midst of preparing for Bible Study later in the morning, and so she told me all about Psalm 124. They are doing a Eugene Peterson* study, so the translation below is his:

A Pilgrim Song of David
1-5 If God hadn't been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
If God hadn't been for us
when everyone went against us,
We would have been swallowed alive
by their violent anger,
Swept away by the flood of rage,
drowned in the torrent;
We would have lost our lives
in the wild, raging water.

6 Oh, blessed be God!
He didn't go off and leave us.
He didn't abandon us defenseless,
helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

7 We've flown free from their fangs,
free of their traps, free as a bird.
Their grip is broken;
we're free as a bird in flight.

8 God's strong name is our help,
the same God who made heaven and earth.

She said, the point of the psalm is that even when the turkeys tried to get us down, God was with us, and we kept on going. (Those weren't her exact words.) So, as I sat down at the kitchen table with my Grape Nuts and raisins, I got out my Jerusalem Bible, and then my Timothy Botts' book of the Psalms. (Do you know Timothy's** work? Yowsa. His calligraphy is phenomenal.)

And so I sat there, reading Psalm 124, 127*** (if God doesn't build the house)... and ate my breakfast and thought about my mother. Who has been a nurturing force in my life--all of my friends have been. And how finally, I have gotten to the place where I have not one but two scriptures open on my breakfast table.

These are not easy times. I am racing at breakneck to come up with a plausible research project to wow the folks in the Midwest who will determine if I get to start my PhD in the fall. I was pulled off of Mother Goose duty, (where I sing to babies) for the next two weeks, when the session ends, because there were complaints that I seemed not into it, unhappy. And my boss, rather than reprimand me, decided that I have a lot on my plate (oh, did I mention recovery from sinus surgery?) to say, take a break. We'll reevaluate in the new year. Here, I have been off my game, thinking as I look at a sea of young ones and their mothers, grandmothers, fathers, will this be my last fall of singing to them? How they ARE my sunshine. And that sadness came through. And so it's relief, sort of, because yes, I could tell I was off my game, but also, again, sadness, as there is, when you're pulled off the game and someone else is put in.

If God hadn't been with us,

We would have lost our lives
in the wild, raging water.

And I haven't been lost. I haven't been washed away. I'm still here, still plugging, still standing. For now, that is enough.

(I have put the links at the end, in hopes that you will go to them, but to prevent you from leaving the post before finishing reading.)
*Eugene Peterson, A long obedience in the same direction.
**Timothy Botts: Online Gallery
***Psalm 127:1-2, from

No comments: