The Psalm Saved Me
“Did you do this?”
My eyes blinked open. I was still disoriented. I was transitioning from the dream world to the familiar surroundings of our bedroom. It was dark. The sun had barely crossed the horizon.
“Did you do this?”
The question demanded an answer, and now. There was certainly no time to ask why – why is this question so imperative? Why can’t it wait? I fumbled my way to some form of wakefulness, enough to rummage through my memory for a context, a story that would provide an answer. I hesitantly uttered a yes not knowing how the remainder of the conversation would flow.
By posing the question, my husband was trying to determine if I was innocent or guilty. My disclosure would put me in the category of “at fault”. And because of his association to me, he had become complicit in my choices regardless of whether he liked it or not. In turn, he felt caught; I was caught.
What made the situation even more excruciating was I believed he would stand with me, defend me, protect me despite others' judgments. Instead, I felt him turn. He prioritized saving face by tactfully distancing himself from the incident and vowing never to repeat the scenario and making sure I didn’t either. I focused inward in hopes of containing the aftermath of betrayal. Moreover, I became obsessed with running round-the-clock rehearsals of why I did what I did to quiet the accusations. If I could come up with a solid argument, then maybe I could absolve myself. But there came a point when no rationale was adequate enough to counteract.
Shame, what was once crouching at the door was now fully present.
I began questioning my very existence. I seriously contemplated disconnecting from the things that inspired joy, wonder and beauty because while these fueled my desire for life, they also put me in shame’s way. I would rather surrender then risk what seemed like the inevitable, being exposed to who I really am – a mess and an imposter.
What I wanted most was to go MIA but as life would have it, I was not excused from my daily duties as a mom, wife, therapist, ministry leader, friend, etc. So the only way to appear seemingly functional was to compartmentalize what was going on in the inside from what was expected of me on the outside. On the one hand, it provided temporary asylum. But the instant I was no longer performing, I was thrust back in.
That’s when Psalm 91 found me. It saved me.
1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Taken from ESV
Day and night, night and day, haunting taunts and threats of ruin hijacked my senses. But if I trust, dwell, abide, hold fast and am intimate with God’s name, then, I will know faithfulness, deliverance, protection, rescue, satisfaction, and the nearness of his presence. Even the angels will be given command concerning me! I will look out and see salvation. I will not cave under shame’s best attempts to oppress. The ground I stand on is sound; it bears me up.
That was 2015.
Since then, Psalm 91 has become my prayer when groans are all I could muster. It has become my utterance for others in their time of need and desperation.
Poetry has a way of employing language (like stories and other forms of creativity) to open our mind, stir our heart and soul and to even rouse our body to embody experiences. It allows us to feel our world in ways that we otherwise have limited access to.
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. in The Mindful Brain says, “But poets have found a way to use words to free our minds, to clear our vision, to create mindfulness in the moment. The art of the poet is to bring presence into our lives. With poetry we sense the world in a new light….”
How amazing that God gifts us poetry and connects with us through it!
In 2016, I committed to memorizing a psalm a month. I began with the more familiar ones like, Psalm 1, 23, and 91. Unfortunately, I was not as successful as I had hoped but if success is measured not solely by the end result but by having a target and continually moving toward it, then I have profited.
It’s January 2017, a time of the year notorious for resolution making. I’m resetting my goal because where there is a goal, there is aim; where there is an aim, there is direction.
Join me in committing a psalm to memory. The journey is better embarked together than alone. Pick a psalm and share what drew you to that psalm and/or how it has strengthened you. I would love to hear!