Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, February 02, 2009

a year of morning thanks

"I will yet. . ."

This morning I'm thankful for David--the king, the poet, and fancy dancer, who had this habit of singing, no matter whether he was leading the empire or hiding out in a tent. In his songs, his madly emotional peregrinations, one finds elbow room for just about all of us. You want to hear unfettered praise?--read the psalms. You want to know the darkness?--read on. You want to hear to someone else rant?--David did that too, and in song, if you can believe it.

We own two Dutch psalters--135 years old--one from my grandma, one from my wife's grandma. Those two song books were used 500 miles apart, in two Dutch colonies from two different immigration eras. No matter--both of them show very clearly that Psalm 42 was, for those two grandmas, some kind of favorite, so heavily trafficked the ancient pages are stained. For some reason, both grandmas loved 42. Why?--I don't know. That question requires a historian.

But, I'll tell you why yesterday, to me, Psalm 42 rang true, even without the music. David's opening allusion isn't to Bambi--it's to some starving doe whose throat is as parched as her stomach, an animal who's almost dying. He pulls out the simile to describe himself, of course, because he's the one who's starved, dying on the vine.

The chorus that runs through both Psalm 42 and 43, linking them, goes like this:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

What's humanly distressing--at least to me--about the flagellation of those rhetorical questions and, so quickly, the sturdy, heartfelt pledge is that one comes almost to doubt the depth of David's emotional starvation, the extent of his darkness. How in the heck did he change so fast? In real time, it takes him about thirty seconds to shake the horror by doing nothing more than pledging to praise God. Okay.

My problem with such a phenomenal turnaround is my own sense that the horror doesn't blow away just that easy. One doesn't languish near death in whatever horror one confronts, then simply bleat out a few words, no matter how righteous, and then get righted, back on the track to glory. Life just doesn't work that way.

But I do take comfort in David's verb form--"will yet." David says, "I will yet praise him--" that's something close to future tense. He says he's sure the hour will come--or the day--when he knows he will praise God once more. But implied in the commitment is verifiable real time. Maybe not right now, but sometime, even soon.

I think he's saying, "Right now, I'll bide my time. Right now, I'm not in the thanks mode, but I will--I know I will. I'll promise you that sometime in the future "I will yet praise him."

That's a promise I can live with.

Who knows what an ancient Hebrew potentate meant when he penned the words? Nobody. All I know for sure is that somewhere in the spaces he left behind, even in a verb form, I can find a place to pitch a tent of my own.

And for that habitation, this morning, I'm very thankful.

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