Saturday, November 11, 2006

The King Of Israel Tore His Clothes

Rating: SL, GT
Psalm 77
2 Kings 5:1-19
I think of God, I am restless, I ponder, and my spirit faints.
You will not let my eyelids close; I am troubled and I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old; I remember the years long past;
I commune with my heart in the night; I ponder and search my mind.

Has [the Lord’s] loving-kindness come to an end for ever? has his promise failed forevermore?

I have wept, and shouted, and screamed aloud at God to WAKE UP!! What are you THINKING?? Either get off your Divine Ass or explain to me what you’re doing, RIGHT NOW. Please. Are you paying any attention at all?

My anger and pain comes from my conviction that God IS paying attention. Why, then? Why? I recognize that I have done things and left things undone that create my own circumstances, but what did my parents ever do to deserve what happened to them? And even if they “deserved” it for something in their pasts, what happened to mercy? Where’s the grace? This can’t have been for the good of their souls, the amendment of their lives; they’re going to die this way. So let them die. What sick Being would desire their fruitless torment?

Oh, I remember it well, the righteous wrath I felt, the grief, the sense of abandonment and betrayal of my parents, two flawed, wounded, courageous people who kept on keeping on with service and work and humor and love, in weather rough and smooth. God, I know you’re there; WAKE UP!!! Don’t you care?
6[Naaman] brought the letter [from the king of Aram] to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.” 8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.”

The king of Israel rent his clothes, because he could not do what the king of Aram asked of him. His arrogance was thinking that he had to do everything himself; his mistake was in forgetting that he was a king. The letter was sent not to him personally, but to the king of Israel, who is more than the individual. He need not despair. All citizenry, from goatherd to general, was encompassed in his kingship. And the prophet spoke.

Well. I’m not a king. But I often rend things in frustration at being asked to do what I cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do things you think you cannot.” Which is all good—but some things I really CANNOT do. OK, I admit that sometimes I mostly just think I can’t, or I just really, really don’t want to. But it’s bitterly frustrating to be held responsible for something that is simply not in my power.

And then, then we come to the thing I think I cannot do, the thing I fear to do. The thing I dread. Asking for help. Ideologically, I approve of asking for help. I think asking for help means accessing resources, plugging into available power, a strong, smart, healthy, positive, constructive act.

But what if I ask for help and no help is forthcoming? What if it just reveals my weakness to the ones I thought would help, and what if they exploit that? What if my best interests are of no interest to them, as has happened? What then?

What happens then is an experience of betrayal as damaging as the originating circumstance. We’re not talking momentary disappointment; we’re talking about long-term, catastrophic change, the kind that can require daily energy for the rest of my life in order to heal. This isn’t the touchy-feely pink-and-yellow-tinted 70s crap about “let yourself be vulnerable, take off your mask, only through taking risk can you grow, yadda yadda blah blah blah.” No matter what saccharine psycho-babble people spout, asking for help is exposing oneself to judgment and betrayal.

Has [the Lord’s] loving-kindness come to an end for ever? has his promise failed forevermore?

I hope it has not. I pray it has not. And so I shout at God. I make an offering of my righteous wrath, my grief, my utter failure to understand and to see God’s hand at work. Sometimes it is all I have to give. I try to make peace with my brother before I offer my gift, such as it is, and when I cannot, I offer that failure to God as well. I depend upon the grace of God to make all sufficient. Sometimes it is all I can do.

yours in the struggle,


At 9:21 AM, Blogger Blue Wren said...

Your gifts are many, Max, your thoughts fiery and bright, your existence in this time and place a gift in and of itself.

Thank you for sharing your darkness; we all face it with you. And thank you for the other side of it, as well, your humor and humanness.

Struggling with you,


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