“Day unto day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19:2
In this psalm and in this verse particularly, David is not given to hyperbole or poetic license. He’s right, and he’s not stretching things. What he’s established in the opening line is that God himself can be seen and heard in the sheer expansive beauty of the heavens. A prairie landscape is the voice of God, he says, and that voice is there all the time, day after day and night after night. It’s music that never stops, a celebration that’s as eternal as anything this world can deliver. And it all speaks of Him. Isn’t it glorious? That’s what David is saying.
What makes him hammer the point the point home in verse two is that he can’t seem to believe it himself. Literally, God Almighty has created a canopy that is always there over our heads, a canopy of praise; and it soars above us all the time. “Day after day,” he says, as if we just don’t get it. “Night after night,” he says, as if none of us are really paying attention. Honestly, I think what he’s saying is, stop your infernal toiling and spinning once in a while and look up, for heavens sake.
In an essay titled “Gypsies,” Anne Lamott, in her own inimitable fashion, ridicules herself for being so infernally self-possessed. If she hasn’t already arrived, she’s dreadfully close to middle-age, she says, and, when she sees herself in a mirror, she finds the tell-tale earmarks terrifying (“triangles of fat that pooch at the top of my thighs”).
Some of her friends ask her to come along to a movie about gypsies, and she does, albeit reluctantly, because, she says, too angry about her aging body, she would have preferred “an action movie, something with some tasteful violence.”
But the movie they attend brings her joy because she sees old gypsy women dancing with a kind of measured self-abandon that she knows she needs. What she sees in their eyes is a portrait of the equanimity which age may well bring, if we let it: “the beauty of having come through.”
That film, like the heavens, are to Ms. Lamott the very voice of God. What she sees is exactly the skin cream she needs, not to cover the wrinkles, but to bless them. Those old dancing women remind her that she is, like them, becoming sanctified. Those old dancing women make her crows feet smile. Here’s the way she puts it:
Coming out of the movie that night, I realized that I want what the crones
have: time for all those long, deep breaths, time to watch more closely, time to learn to enjoy what I’ve always been afraid of—the sag and the invisibility, the ease of understanding that life is not about doing.
David the poet/king would like that line, I think, because the everyday-ness of God’s voice above us is as startling as it is because we don’t pay attention, because I don’t pay attention, because, like Anne Lamott, I’m still believing that life is about doing and not about being, far more about proving ourselves and getting things done than it is about simply watching the sky.
Someday. Someday soon, maybe, we’ll all look up more often, because He’s preaching. The heavens are declaring right now, David says, this very instant, and they’re not about to quit, if we only stop, and look, and listen.