It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great, so my feet did not slip.
I found an old entry in a prayer journal on this section of Psalm 18. yes, I had scribbled, and the (extra) spidery appearance of my handwriting indicated that it was a very heart-felt yes--I need the impossible. I need help to do the impossible.
I want to do so much more than I am doing now, though I'm already engrossed just keeping up with everything.
I want to love people and serve and care for them even though I struggle with bitterness or burn-out from serving.
I feel like I'm at my limits. Because I'm at my limits, because I can't see myself being able to fulfil that, I need God to 'enlarge the path under me'--I can't walk better or keep from tripping.
This may sound hard to understand, but it ties in to another verse in this psalm, a phrase that I never understood until I had my first experience of great grief: Your gentleness has made me great.
I am learning, growing, in so many painfully precious, staggeringly significant ways, because of pain and trouble. I see so many huge mistakes and blindspots and cesspits in my maze of a heart, which I couldn't have seen otherwise. A whole new aspect of God's goodness and love; learning to value both so much more, in the war ground of crisis.
because I am weak--
I cannot take much pain.
I'm lousy at suffering. If I was pushed into the heat of the fighting I probably wouldn't survive. Just struggling along the fringes of it is bad enough--one flesh wound, and I feel like I'm dying.
I know that what I struggle with now is nothing compared to what I see others having to deal with. I see how, even as I feel burdened down, how much worse it could have been, or become. A lesson which comes in the shape of an open, smarting wound, but which could have likewise come in the form of an amputation
--which, at this point in my immaturity, I likely wouldn't be tough enough to survive for long.
He is gentle with me. He knows just how shallow my thresholds for pain and suffering are. He gives me what He knows I can bear, and with these relatively small, easy lessons, moves me forward in guided baby steps towards greatness.
Greatness of mind, and soul, and heart.
Greatness of faith.
But it's a balance too. Earlier on it says that He 'makes me feet like the feet of deer'. He gives me skills and ability that aren't even within my species, that are so far from my natural ability, to put it another way. To bend a bow of bronze--besides the lovely imagery and cadence of this phrase, I never actually realized the impact of the metaphor until I read Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow and discovered that actually the very idea of a bow made of bronze was in itself a symbol of impossibility.
Sometimes, He helps us by enlarging the path for our dragging feet, catering to our individual limits with the gentleness that one would hardly dare to expect from One who is God.
Other times, He helps us by gifting us with the skills and abilities and wisdom that seem so unnatural now, enabling us to do what would previously have been the impossible, to bend the bow of bronze with hands suddenly deft and powerful.
He gives grace in both ways, according to our needs and His will.
As I read verse 5, I started wondering why David emphasized the concept of God being his inheritance.
An interesting idea. I'd never really thought of 'inheriting' God (other than as the Christian heritage of a Christian family background); it seemed strange quantifying God, so to speak. At any rate, I agreed wholeheartedly with David--He was a good inheritance.
The idea of goodness immediately brought to my mind all the things that I find myself thanking God for almost every day: life; family; love; comfort; work; passion; beauty. The small things like the morning cup of tea or the hug of a child, or the extension of a deadline (which actually is not a small thing at all but ranks close behind the parting of the Red Sea and deserves its own psalm of praise!)
Goodness. That wordless, subtle feeling that presses against your ribs like a swelling breath of warm air--it's contentment. There's another feeling--a sharp, brilliant tingle, a mental gasp of joy that makes you feel like a Youtube video suddenly switched from 720p to 2160p. That's delight. Both these feelings stem from the experience of goodness. Yes, life was full of goodness from God's hand.
But I realized suddenly, in the midst of all these nice warm fuzzy thoughts, that these were God's gifts reflecting His goodness. David wasn't just thanking God for the glorious view from his palace window, he was thanking God for being Who He was, and for being his.
God, not His gifts, was David's inheritance.
There's a difference between a gift and an inheritance. Gifts can be large and inheritances can be small, but gifts are typically uncertain, one-off; in contrast, inheritances are both expected and meant to be effective in the long-term.
Our portion in life, our inheritance, is not any of these wonderful gifts which we can see God in; it is God Himself. David knew to enjoy the goodness of God, not just in His gifts but in His Person; to rely on, to be empowered by, to be satisfied in that alone.
When he was on the run, hiding in the wilderness from Saul, he found comfort in that inheritance.
When he was in the wilderness and weary with the grief of Absalom's treachery, he found comfort in that inheritance.
When seemingly all the gifts were taken from him, David's joy remained in his inheritance: the person of their Giver.
As Sheldon Vanauken said: 'God gives us many gifts, but not permanence: that we must seek in His arms.'
Our inheritance--which we can rely, enjoy, and draw strength from for our every day life, which we know we can count on to last us for the long term--is none other than God Himself.
You are the portion of my inheritance, and my cup; You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life? (and, I want to add, that probably applies to most other relationships as well)
I found myself thinking about this.
Especially as Chinese New Year approaches, and we are given time with our family and extended family--for better or for worse.
Be all there.
--as Jim Elliott said; Wherever you are, be all there.
This is a whole lot more challenging than it sounds, though it may be just three words.
In this world of multi-tasking, it is so hard to focus. So hard to just listen and do--nothing else.
Nowadays when we listen to music we have a music video to watch, or the miles whizzing by through the windows of a subway; or a dinner to cook, or laundry to fold, or a street that we're crossing, the white paint stripes flashing underfoot like the traffic light above our heads. Going somewhere while we listen, or doing something while we listen, watching something while we listen.
And when we talk, our conversations are often haunted by little ghosts. I mean the ghosts that live in our jeans pockets and hover in our hands and appear with a little ghostly aura of light, to float between us and our friends or transmit their ghostly aura to our faces.
(yes, smart phones)
Talking about Chinese New Year, I gather nowadays it's a common experience to have the ghosts invade your reunion dinner. Sitting around the coffee table and all its glorious spread of new year snacks and tidbits, relatives who haven't seen each other in months if not since the last reunion, you peer doubtfully at each other over lattice work pineapple tart faces and the red lids of love letter tins. A thin trickle of shallow conversation, which easily loses to the cracking of peanut shells and rustle of wrappers. And then out pops one ghost, soon followed by another, and then a whole family of ghosts have their reunion, hovering comfortably around the coffee table.
Unfortunately the ghosts get their reunion more than once a year; we summon them up almost every day. Even our own family or close friends, whom we can't possibly plead shy of talking to, often appear to us through that white glow, and we process their words at the same time as we like a post, scroll expertly down our Instagram feeds, or pin another cute guinea pig photo (guilty as charged.)
We are so skilled at keeping within our comfort zones, and such expert multi-taskers, that we seldom give 100% when we talk or listen.
This is a problem that probably can apply to different types of relationships, but easily to family--because sometimes they're so close we take them for granted--or because sometimes, we don't know them as well as our relationship would suggest.
This year, be all there. Leave the ghosts in your pockets for once.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are