This psalm is one of the cries of the desperately desolate. Whether figuratively or literally, she or he feels crushed, wasting away in body and spirit. She or he describes their cry as the cry of the homeless, and points to the rubble of a city desolated by war. I have to admit as I sit, in my comfortable middle class privilege, listening to the birds singing off my porch here in a college town in NC, I am far removed from this situation of desolation in my own mind.
Yet Scripture reminds me that it is such a prayer that God hears – the God who is described as permanent as the earth, in fact more permanent: the One for whom the earth and the skies are but a passing shadow. God is never not moved by the cry of the desolate, the homeless, the war stricken.
And I think of my turning on the morning news at my drive to work or class, and how the plight of those experiencing homelessness, or illness, or war gets described as a statistic. I am reminded that there are no statistics to God. God sees and shares in the suffering felt by each of God’s hurting children.
To me this morning this passage calls me out of complacency. For, yes, a part of this passage is the reminder that no matter how broken or desperate one’s own life gets, they never will become a statistic to God but always be held in love. Yes, that encourages me about the “what if”’s that rarely haunt my mind. Yet I think it is also a challenging invitation. To be a child of God is not just to know you are held, carried, and loved without condition. It is also an invitation to begin to act toward others and all creation as God does. So it invites me to learn to, like God, begin to see the hurting other in my life and community. To see them not as a statistic, not as one I overlook on the way to the bus stop, and definitely not as some abstract idea from a newscast. I am invited to cultivate a compassion where I see them as they are, as worthy of love, full life, meaning, family, health, and safety as I am. Where I see their pain and hear their cry of heartache. Where I realize that while they suffer, I too am diminished.
I have to admit such thoughts make the beautiful bird-song and sight of greening trees I see on my porch far less comfortable. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Perhaps all of us ought to feel less comfortable by facing how we overlook our fellow children of God daily, without thought of consequence.
O Lord, give us your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your heart to understand! Amen.