Wisdom for the Way Part 2: The Psalms

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One of the amazing aspects of The Way is in how it highlights the various realities of the pilgrims trail. The father is shown to be often out of breath, tired, grumpy, cold, and walking alone. He sleeps both outside on the cold hard ground and attempts to sleep inside with other snoring pilgrims. The same reality of the trail is found in the Psalms. The book of Psalms presents the real journey of various Psalmists which then become waypoints for us along our journey.

The wisdom here seems to be in the Psalm’s unwavering honesty expressed in metaphoric image (Brown, 2002). As I read I encountered images of anger expressed as curses spoken upon enemies such as “Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones” (Psalm 137:9). I encountered images of sleepless nights of meditation (Psalm 119:48), anxiety of impending enemies that surround like angry bees (Psalm 118:12), bitter tears and heart wrenching repentance for horrifying sin (Psalm 51), fearful wandering in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), and unimaginable joy that recruits instruments and a multitude of voices to sing praises to a faithful God (Psalm 150). These images captivated me for their brutal honesty, vividness and brave interaction. They gave me freedom to honestly confront my pilgrimage realities. In other words, the Psalms wisdom is in its brutally accurate description of the landscape and trail of the pilgrim.

It is amazing how little we actually engage our lives with this kind of brutal honesty. How often do we seek to clean up our mess or worse pretend that it doesn’t exist? How often do we ignore or stuff our feelings of anger, pain, confusion and sorrow? In times of sorrow can we pray the imprecatory Psalms such as Psalm 137 or are we too ‘holy’? The honesty expressed in the Psalms empowers pilgrims to actively engage with the trials and joys they daily encounter on the trail. It is this kind of honest interaction that allows God’s steadfast love to begin the healing that otherwise would not take place in our lives.

Next: Ecclesiastes

Brown, W. P. (2002). Seeing the Psalms; A Theology of Metaphor, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

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