God wants the worst of you.
Professor Bill Countryman, who led our conversation on the Psalms last week, reminded us that the poetry of the Psalms reflects every human emotion. We are comfortable with many of the prayers and poems of the Psalms that reflect love and trust in God and other people like, “I love the Lord for he has heard my cry," or "The Lord is my shepherd," or "How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity." We may even make room for the Psalms of lament and sorrow: "My soul is in anguish... My eyes grow weak with sorrow."
What we are far less comfortable with are the Psalms that complain against God: "Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself!" And what about Psalms that reveal human anger, like, "The wicked are perverse from the womb... O God, break the teeth in their mouths." When we hear the famous Psalm 137, "By the waters of Babylon," we tend to end with verse six. Rarely do we hear an Anglican chant of this Psalm including verse 9: "Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks." Why not pray that part of the Psalm if that is where we are? Psalm 137 is a song of people who have been torn from their homeland and displaced in a foreign country. They're afraid, they're in mourning and they’re angry.
Every human emotion must be brought before God in prayer or we run the risk of phony religion. If we come before a polite Mr. God who can only accept our Sunday best then we keep ourselves from the one who seeks us to lay bare our souls -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. The great Anglican spiritual writer Esther de Waal (who we will be reading at our Wednesday meditations this Lent) writes: "Christ loves the whole woman, the whole man. Christ wants the whole woman, the whole man. Christ loves and wants the whole of me, not the counterfeit self, the pretend self, the half self."
So, all during Lent we have the opportunity to open ourselves to the light of Christ using Psalm 51, "For behold, you look for truth deep within me... create in me a clean heart O God." What is our shadow side? What do we do with our anger, frustration, fear and hate? Do we allow them to overtake us, or bring them to the penetrating light of God's healing power? Do we name these feelings and experiences and so reduce their power over us? God seeks us where we are, but doesn't leave us there. Christ wants all of us. "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken contrite heart, O God you will not despise."