I begin where I ended yesterday, reminding myself of Your steadfast love. The Message version of Psalm 36.5-6 tells me in no uncertain terms that I cannot underestimate the extent of Your love and of Your constancy; that when I try to speak of them no superlative is too extravagant:
God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
(Psalm 36.5-6 The Message)
And yet … too often, lost is precisely how I feel. I can feel overwhelmed by the lists of jobs and the screeds of creative ideas I never get to. I can feel numbed by depression, overcome by physical pain and unmoored by the extent of the brain-fog which seems to dim even my physical eyesight.
Yet this Psalm contains a contemplative photographer’s blueprint on which I feel I could meditate my whole life, and still not comprehend: I am beckoned into God’s shadows, so that I can find a secure place from where I might see God’s light, and see that light in abundance, and with rejoicing.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
(Psalm 36.7-9 NRSV)
Right seeing is embedded in cosmic universal steadfast love.
Right seeing is miraculously made physically present to me so that it might be experienced as the felt Presence of God in all things.
The Psalmist pleads not to be taken away from the experience of this sanctuary made from steadfast love, pleads not to be taken out of the place of being right with God, at home with God.
For me, so much of Passiontide is about remembering the utter isolation and desolation which the all-too-human Jesus experienced – rejection, betrayal, trial, torture, execution – in a spiral of continual misunderstanding and miscommunication, even with those to whom he was closest. The excruciating emotions of Passiontide resonate deeply somewhere within my depressive self, and they make me very afraid of the strength of these feelings which seem to hurl me into lostness, away from any experience of God.
Yet time and again, I remind myself that I have heard Spirit whisper to me that it is only by entering into these shadows that I will realise they are safe, because God does not abandon me. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, ‘darkness is not dark to God’. Steadfast Love invites me to run into Love’s shadows, because it is only from there that I might find out what God’s light might be; it is only from there I might find who God’s light is; it is only from there that I become part of Your Light.
In the shadows of what I cannot possibly comprehend, in the depths of the suffering of the peoples of this world, and in the shame of my own distorted being and acting and seeing, in all the endless murky mysteries, God still shines out and through, from the mightiest mountain top to the deepest depths. In awe and wonder, I see how what I thought might be lurking shadow might be transfigured into brightness by God’s hand.
When the eyes of my heart are filled with awe in the presence of my steadfastly loving Maker, I can feast continually on the springing up of wonder and the gushing over of worship:
you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.
(Psalm 36. 8b-9 The Message)
Yet again, this psalm tells me that God’s water is what I need to rinse through me, cleansing me, so I can create anew.
light fountain. (iPhone image).
shadowed seeing (diptych: ink, charcoal & graphite on paper)
Kate Kennington Steer
One thought on “psalms for passiontide: Holy Monday Psalm 36.5-11”
Psalm 36 5-6 reminds me of my favourite Sunday school song: ‘Wide, wide as the ocean…and his love reaches me, everywhere’. Thank you Kate, for your lovely words and thoughts.