A Faith That Feels

When I began reading the Bible as a late-teen, I had no idea what to look for or what to think, other than, “I really want to get this right.  I want to know the truth and I want to live it and tell other people what the truth is.”  I was in my own novice state of needing to prove something, prove I was “right.”  I’ve since learned, that is not a hunger for “truth” but evidence of fear.  What I really craved was connection.  I didn’t know that until “life happened” a few times and I was forced by desire to seek more than information from the pages of one of the most renown texts in the world.  Enter the Psalms…

James L. Kugel writes about the Psalms in How To Read The Bible (2007).  In this text, he shares the history of this book among books and refers to it as, “the Bible’s book of the soul.”  Indeed, for many, including myself, been a heart cry from many broken places seeking mending.  I laugh as I read Psalm 69:5, as Kugel quotes, “O God, You know my foolishness…” and I recall the lament of reading Psalm 10:1, “Why should you hide yourself…?” Kugel relates how modern research has discovered not all the Psalms were written by King David and they don’t necessarily mean what we think.   Some were written “in a distinctly northern Hebrew” while “David was a southerner.”  Psalms were performed in the Temple and later, when the Temple was destroyed, they were used in Synagogues and later in Churches.  When someone would enter the Temple with an offering, he would tell the priest what it was for, and the priest would signal the choir/singer, and the strain of one of the Psalms would fill the sanctuary.  How beautiful it would be to hear a brief celebration of my gratitude for God’s goodness set to music and vocals! 

Some Psalms represent ecstatic praise, some requests, some gratitude, while others deep grief, hopelessness, and recollection of better times past.  Whether written in Hebrew or from the Ugaritic texts, the Psalms represent a means of connecting words with longing. 

If seminary has taught me anything, it is given me more questions than answers.  I have learned that although scholars before the mid-1800s believed that all the Psalms were composed by King David, as discoveries continue more fodder for a new theory was formulated.  The Psalms, just like the rest of the Bible, are a gathering of writings that speak to a variety of realities affecting our minds and hearts.  It provides comfort, reminds us of goodness, causes questions, and a host of other experiences that are useful as those in antiquity sought to work out their understanding of who God was and what God was like.  We have those same questions today.  Wrestling through the highs and lows of life, using the Psalms (and other portions of Scripture) to echo the sentiment of the soul creates connection. Connection is the truest truth I know.  Through connection, I have found the ability to co-create meaning with God as I understand God in a way that sustains my soul.  I guess, that’s the point of it all…

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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