“My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” Psalm 32
Yesterday, I mowed my lawn. I thought it would be a quick job because I’d done it less than week before. I am not one of those Dutch folk who believe that “cleanliness is next to Godliness” is found somewhere in Leviticus. But in summer, when I spend hours and hours in the basement clicking computer keys, come mid- to late afternoon I love to get outside and do some honest, sweaty labor in the vineyard of our backyard, where we don’t, of course, have a vineyard.
Yesterday, the grass out front was long enough to call in the sheep. So I mowed, and the clippings—our yard is thick with maple seed whirlybirds right now—filled up the bed of my son-in-law’s big pick-up. The rainfall this spring has been magnificent.
By late July, I likely won’t be able to walk barefoot on my grass because what’s left will be yellowed cactus points. By July, I’ll cut the lawn once every three weeks at best, and then mostly weeds, the only verdure that prospers once the rains stop.
Only once in the near thirty years that I’ve lived here have I seen a black cloud rolling in, a storm of dust. Only once. But that day I won’t forget because it prompted fear from a memory I don’t have—a vision from the Dust Bowl that turned prairie into the Sahara not all that far west from here.
By November, 1933, dust storms had roared by for years already, in the middle of a drought that went on for ten years. People were actually accustomed to hacking up mud from their throats, to enclosing drinking water in Mason jars to keep it from turning brown, even in the house, to knead bread inside drawers drawn just wide enough to allow their hands inside.
But what came on Armistice Day that November was like nothing else.
In 1923, about two hours northwest of here, a man named A. Karstrom retired and went to town, leaving his son the 470-acre spread that made Mr. Karstrom a good living. What followed was thirteen progressively bad years and the Black Blizzard, which broke his son’s heart and back, the air an image of midnight. In the heat and dust, the farm blew away. Four years later, a new owner took over a place that hadn’t been lived and moved five tons of sand from the acreage. Five tons. That’s how dry it was just northwest of here in 1933. That’s how lifeless.
The NIV, in verse four, holds on to a bit of what the KJV used to say. “My moisture is turned into the drought of summer” has been changed to “my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” Sapped is the link, as if the sap, the fluid, of David’s soul has dried up by the torturous heat of his own sin and misery. What’s in him is drought, dust. When he looks up from his anguish, all he sees is a black blizzard.
His spirit and strength is as lifeless as that Karstrom farm. Even if the weather turns, he can’t move in the tons of choking dust that rises in his heart and throat.
What he needs is someone to carry away all those tons of dust, to bring him back, to refresh him with living water.
And that’s the story of Psalm 32, his story and ours. Black blizzards turned miraculously verdant by the living water of God’s own forgiveness. That’s the story all right.