Be the Balm

by susan on October 3, 2016

Words for the Journey
October 2, 2016

do-not-fret-21Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
3Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
6He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
7Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.
8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

– Psalm 37:1-9

I really like the word “fret”, probably because I’m really good at it.
The Hebrew word interpreted “fret” means to burn or to be inflamed.

It means to literally let something get under your skin.

sign-left-lane-ends-merge-rightThis may come as a complete shock, but for awhile there was a section of I-95 that was under construction for a really long time. When I was working in a rehab center on the Northside, I had to travel right through this section of road every single day. Each time, I would come to this point in the highway where a giant sign would alert drivers that it was time. to. merge. The left lane would have at least a half a mile to shift to the right. I, being the responsible driver I am, would get over in plenty of time so that I could take my place in the long line of creeping cars — only to watch as other, less considerate drivers would fly by, forcing their way to the front of the line.

I’ve never been big on short-cutters,
on those who skip the hard work & the mess
& head straight to the front of the line.

In fact, it can get right under my skin, making me feel like I am physically on fire. That’s fretting, and I’m really good at it.

I doubt I’m the only one.

What gets under your skin?
Who’s short-cuts, who’s undeserved success,
whose wrongdoing sets you on fire?

The Psalms talk a lot about anger and a lot about wrong-doers. So did Jesus, probably because these are important struggles in everyday life.

The 37th Psalm actually describes a time in Israel’s life when things were well-ordered. David was king. There were insiders and outsiders, us vs. them, good vs. evil. They had not yet experienced the fall of Jerusalem.

Even in this well-ordered tim, the psalmist reveals a restlessness that’s present even when things are going well. Perhaps deep down, the psalmist (whom we are told is David himself) already knows that things don’t always add up. He knows that wrongdoers win. He knows he doesn’t always play by the rules, yet he doesn’t always get what he deserves.

This is the world we live in. Sometimes things do not add up:
The irresponsible employee gets the promotion.
The deplorable politician gets more votes.
The mean classmate gets all the attention.

Even when things are going well, there is a lurking truth:
Life is not fair.

So, what do we do? How do we live in light of this truth?

The psalmist repeats three times: Do not fret.
It’s not a command to avoid all kinds of anger. Sometimes we need to get angry. We need the kind of anger that confronts injustice & that compels change, but the anger described here is not the helpful kind.

It is the jealous kind.
It’s the kind that’s rooted in competition.
It’s the kind that’s based in fear.

Instead of inspiring us to relieve suffering, this kind of anger distracts us. It even derails us.

It makes us turn from what’s good and important & makes us turn toward what’s lacking & what we think we must have to be successful.

It makes us act out of desperation, not trust.

The Message translation of v, 7 says:
Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.

Don’t let worry with what others are doing derail you.

This summer at the Wild Goose Festival, I heard Pastor Sarah Heath talk about a time in her ministry when she had begun to let the reactions & decisions of others distract her. A wise friend delivered this advice that has continued to help her:  “You do you, boo.” I think the psalmist would agree.

Do not fret, says the psalmist three times. Why?
Because if something’s wrong, God will make it right one day.
Goodness will outlast evil.  The bad will eventually burn up & blow away.

Now, it’s one thing to not fret over inconsiderate drivers,
but what about when something much deeper,
much more personal and
much more damaging happens?

amish-school-shooting-e1285765680986The Amish were a peaceful community. They intentionally separated themselves from violence. They lived simple, disciplined lives. And, yet, still. They became the victims of someone’s inner rage.

Ten years ago today, ten Amish school girls were shot & five killed by an intruder. It was this community’s & every parent’s worst nightmare.

The gunman’s mother recently shared her experience in the days following this horrific act committed by her son. She remembered the day she buried her son who committed suicide after the murders. As she & her husband were approaching the graveside for a private funeral, suddenly 40 or so Amish people surrounded them like a crescent.

Even in their grief, they radiated love.
Even in their rage, they embodied forgiveness.

One of the survivors, Rosanna, was shot in the head & is now 15 years old. She is tube-fed & wheelchair bound. She requires full time care. Crazy enough, one of her caregivers is the shooter’s mother, Terri. She bathes Rosanna, dries her hair & reads to her.

Terri talked recently about the response of her new Amish friends:
“…their choice”, she said, “to allow life to move forward was quite a healing balm for us”.

If their rage can be transformed into blessing,
If their sorrow can be turned into a healing balm,
imagine what can be done with our fretting.

In order to be whole, in order to be agents of God’s healing,
we must stop our fretting & return to trust in God.

Friends, let us not fret.
Instead, let’s be the balm.

Previous post:

Next post: