“thou hast enlarged me” Psalm 4
It was always a little tough for us, having to return from week-long treks we took annually through the big-shouldered Missouri River Valley, following the two-hundred year-old route of Lewis and Clark through South Dakota.
We means an ecologist friend of mine and me, as well as a delightful tour hostess for the nearly fifty souls who, with us, filled up a bus. Our first Great Plains Adventure, I remember, was a rip-roaring success for three stooges like us, who’d never pulled off a stunt like that before. Our "tour-ists" loved it, really.
And all three of us live in awe of the country we explored. It’s so big and so beautiful.
But the Great Plains continues to hemorrhage its populace, something it’s done since the late 19th century, when European immigrants and restless Eastern palefaces flooded the place, cock-sure that a few newly planted cottonwoods, some elbow grease, and a good mule would create a home and a way of life on 160-acres. Simply put, that was a lie.
Homesteaders discovered that the Great Plains were despairingly fickle. While we were in
, the whole region was almost flooded. Four inches of rain fell in one night. The prairie looked royal in an emerald
robe. Next year, the place could have been
a dust bowl. Pierre, South
But sparse population in a landscape that immense isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Today, the whole place seems an open-air museum; if you come anywhere close to the Missouri River, even the imaginatively-challenged can hear the sounds of the Corps of Discovery making their way north and west. Almost anywhere on the Missouri’s big glacial banks, you can stand in the yawning openness and watch your dog run away for three days, nary a Burger King in sight. That’s nice.
That first trip didn’t go exactly as planned. We had three days of rain, and the whole event was much more, well, meditative, sweetly meditative, than I’d guessed it was going to be. I’d like to tell you that the devotions we had together each morning were greatly appreciated because they were so meticulously planned, but that would be as big a fib as fertility of the land.
Our devotions were memorable because of the sheer grandeur that surrounded us every day, the immensity of a land where it’s as hard to be arrogant and as it is easy to be on your knees.
For centuries, translators have changed what’s really there in verse one of Psalm 4, and I think it’s a mistake. “Thou hast enlarged me” really says something to this effect: “thou hast set me in a large place.” What David is asking God to remember are the times when He delivered the shepherd/king by bringing him out to the
Not literally, of course. King David didn’t know the
Dakota from Schnectady.
But I understand what he means. You’ve done it before, Lord, he says; you’ve brought me out to the glorious openness of the spacious skies.
“Do it again,” he’s going to say. “Please, Lord, do it one more time.”
I get that. Really, I do.