Unto thee lift I up mine eyes,
O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters,
and as the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress,
even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,
until he have mercy upon us.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we are utterly despised.
Our soul is filled with the scornful reproof of the wealthy
and the despitefulness of the proud.
I have been meditating on this Psalm for a week now, and the word that keeps shimmering for me is wait.
Like Advent, Lent is a season of waiting. Yes, we are (metaphorically) journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem, but all of my journeying is happening right where I am, and I’m not on the road. I’m here, at home, making dinner, doing dishes and laundry, reading to my kids, correcting writing assignments, taking walks, watching the rain fall. There’s not a lot of forward momentum here. I’m just…waiting.
I’m working while I wait, of course, because life moves on even in the waiting times, and dishes wait for no man (or woman). But it is static work, the kind you do over and over and over again because, well, that’s the nature of the beast. You wash the dish so you can use it again, which means you have to wash it again. It’s work, but it’s waiting work. It’s marking-time work. It’s just-getting-through work.
And what this psalm has been quietly speaking to me this week is—that’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s exactly where we’re supposed to be.
It is so easy to believe that life is happening somewhere else, to someone else. This is the lie that our culture tells us, over and over again. It’s the lie that powers all the getting and spending and the laying waste of our powers. It’s the lie that undermines our belief in our belovedness. It’s the lie that keeps us looking out and around with envy and discontent, the lie that blinds us to the goodness of our lives. It’s the lie that the scornful rich and the despiteful proud continually tell.
And this psalm reminds us gently, quietly, what to do in the face of that lie.
As the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress,
even so our eyes wait upon the Lord.
We are to look unto the Lord, and keep looking unto the Lord, until He show us mercy.
We don’t have to make mercy happen any more than we have to create our own work (though we try to do both, don’t we?). We are God’s servants, God’s handmaids. God shows us mercy. God gives us work to do. And because it’s God’s work, we don’t have to manufacture meaning. God has a purpose for us, right where we are. As my pastor says each week when he blesses us before we leave the sanctuary:
You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you are, God has a purpose in your being there. Christ, who’s made a home in you, wants to make a difference through you. Believe it, and go in peace.”
Yes, even in the waiting, the marking time, the just-getting-through, even here God is present, God is working…in us and through us. It’s the slow work of transformation, and it’s worked out moment by moment, right where we are. All we need to do is be present, wait with expectation, and let God bring to completion the work He’s begun.
This sounds so simple, even easy, but anyone who’s tried it knows that waiting is not easy, especially not in a culture that’s always on the run. Staying put is radically countercultural and counterintuitive. It takes courage and conviction. It takes stamina and determination. And it takes faith to believe that looking to the Lord, and waiting on Him, will bear fruit, that He will in fact show us the mercy we long for.
In Lent, we have the prospect of Good Friday and Easter Sunday on our horizons. And so we know that God will show us mercy.
We know that He already has.
Photo by Brian Donovan, Creative Commons via Flickr.