Tag Archives: Psalm 55

Lament (and Parenting)

Lament (and Parenting) [CaD Ps 55] Wayfarer

If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God…

Psalm 55:12-14 (NIV)

Thus far, in my entire life journey, I discovered that the process of releasing my adult children on to their own respective paths of life to be one of the most surprisingly difficult things I’ve ever experienced. It’s not just about the loss of control and the fact that my child may choose paths unfitting my dreams, desires, and expectations. It’s also the experience of catching glimpses of my own weaknesses and shortcomings as a parent, and the useless wonderings of “What if I had only….”

The greatest challenge of David’s life was not the Bathsheba scandal which I talked about in the podcast on Psalm 51. Bathsheba gets top billing and is better known because it has all of the classic plot elements we love in a steamy Harlequin Romance. The greatest challenge of David’s life is lesser known, but I personally find it even more fascinating because it is more intimate and complex. Late in David’s life, he faces a coup de tête finds himself fleeing for his life, and almost loses his throne and his life to his very own son.

The story is found in 2 Samuel 13-19. Let me give you the Reader’s Digest condensed version. The seeds of the rebellion are in David’s own shortcomings as a father. Marriage and family looked very different for a monarch in ancient times. Not only was polygamy regularly practiced, but a monarch had the added layer of nations wanting to marry off daughters to other kings to establish diplomatic ties. David had eight wives, and at least 10 concubines. Which meant the palaces were teaming with princes and princesses who were half-brothers and half-sisters. Long story short, Prince Amnon had the hots for his sister, Princess Tamar. He rapes her, and then in his shame, he shuns Tamar and wants nothing to do with. He treated her like a prostitute. King David is furious according to the record, but he does nothing. He passively seems to ignore the whole thing.

Princess Tamar’s older brother is Prince Absalom, and Absalom bottles up his rage against his half-brother Amnon, who raped his sister, and against his father who did nothing to justly deal with Amnon. The seeds of Prince Absalom’s rage take root and grow into a plot to kill his brother and steal his father’s kingdom. He succeeds at the former, and nearly succeeds with the latter.

In the process of his scheming to steal his father’s throne, the Great Story records that Absalom spent a lot of time establishing allies among the rich, noble, and powerful people in the kingdom. Quietly, slowly he used his position and influence to create both debts and alliances so that when he pulled the trigger on his coup David had virtually no one supporting him.

We can’t be certain, but the lyrics of David’s song that we know as Psalm 55 seem as though they could very well have been penned during the time of Absalom’s rebellion. David expresses that Jerusalem is a boiling cauldron of deceit, treachery, and violence. He feels the sting of an unnamed “companion” who he thought was a friend and ally, but turns out to have sold him out. It is certainly reasonable to think that he’s referring to someone that Absalom convinced to aid in his rebellion.

Like many of David’s songs, Psalm 55 is a personal lament. He is pouring out all of his emotions from despair, hurt, anguish, fear, confusion, and the desire to fly away from all of his troubles. In the pouring out of his deepest emotions he also is reminded of how faithful God had always been and the song ends with a simple proclamation of his unwavering trust.

One of the fascinating threads in the story of Absalom’s rebellion is David’s unwavering love for Absalom. Despite the fratricide, the rebellion, and the attempt to destroy David and take everything that was his, David ordered his men to be gentle with Absalom. When he heard Absalom had been killed, David wept and mourned to the point that his own General called David out for humiliating all of the soldiers who had been loyal to him.

In the quiet this morning I find myself contemplating the complex relationship between parents and children, especially as children mature into their own selves and lives. The whole story of David and his children Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom is a hot mess. There is so much of the story that is not told. Nevertheless, it reminds me of the intense and infinite love a parent feels for a child no matter the differences, conflicts, or chasms that emerge in the relationship.

Once again, there is no concrete evidence to directly correlate Psalm 55 with the story of Absalom’s rebellion, nor is there concrete evidence to the contrary. Some mornings, I find that this is the way the chapter-a-day journey goes. The text connects me to one idea which leads down another path of thought, and I end up in an unintended destination of thought and Spirit. C’est lav ie.

Parenting is one of the grand adventures of this life journey. It has produced the greatest of joys and the deepest of sorrows. It has humbled me to my core, and has equipped Lady Sophia with some of the most powerful practicums for teaching me wisdom.

“Coffee Time” with God

coffee and tee
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 55

Morning, noon, and night
    I cry out in my distress,
    and the Lord hears my voice.
Psalm 55:17 (NLT)

“Coffee time” is a long held tradition in the Dutch culture which is my heritage. When I was a kid, I thought it was just something that my Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well did when I visited them at their home in Le Mars, Iowa. About 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. and then again in the mid-afternoon about 3:00, Grandpa and Grandma V would stop whatever it was they were doing and sit down at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee or tea.

Years later, I spent three years living in a very small rural town that was largely of Dutch heritage. I quickly learned that at 9:00 a.m. and again about 3:00 p.m. the local coffee shop was packed for “coffee time.” Local residents, businessmen, and farmers congregated for a cup of coffee and a serving of current events or local gossip. I came to love the routine break in the day. I looked forward to it.

A few years ago, I first read about “praying the hours.” It’s an ancient practice that I believe was largely lost in the protest that made many of us Protest-ants. Also known as “fixed hour prayer,” the concept is pretty simple. At set times of the day, you stop whatever you are doing and have a conversation with God.

The practice of fixed hour prayer actually has its roots in Christianity’s Judaic roots. As you read through the book of Acts and the stories of the beginning of the early church you’ll find hints of the apostles’ dedication to praying at specific hours of the day, often going to the temple to do so. You also find references throughout David’s lyrics, like the verse I pulled from today’s chapter, of his praying at specific times throughout the day.

After studying a bit of the history of the practice (click here for a great article about it if you’re curious), I’ve spent the past few years trying to incorporate what I like to think of as “coffee time with God” into my daily routine. While I’m far from perfect in my discipline, I’ve found it to be an enjoyable practice. I purposefully take a break from whatever I am doing at specific hours of the day to have a brief conversation with God. It provides much needed breaks to my day. It keeps me connected relationally with God throughout the day instead of the sense of leaving God behind after my morning quiet time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have coffee time scheduled with a Friend.