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Friday, October 18, 2013

Psalm 107: An open letter to dispersed TCk's

And to us, their parents.

Because we are the redeemed, gathered from the east and the west, the north and the south.  Redeemed does not mean we are holy, yet, or special, or immune, just that we received mercy (vs. 1-3).  This is good news.

This Psalm describes the scattered people of Israel in four word-pictures or analogies.  Read along.

They wandered in the wilderness.  I sense that sometimes our college TCK's feel like they are in the wilderness, faint and distressed.  Familiar sights, sounds, foods, friends are hard to come by.  The environment can be harshly indifferent or outright hostile. Directions seem vague and circuitous.  It's easy to get lost. Or to be lonely.  My soul's been a bit faint lately, too, stretched too thin, missing familiarity and ease.  But Jesus went willingly into the wilderness, parched and starving, He faced it on our behalf, alone, worn down, and attacked by the Enemy.  Which enabled Him to be the Way, to bring us all through this journey to the City where we will finally be home, soul-satisfied, filled. (vs. 4-9).

Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons . . . Perhaps that sounds like a bit of a melodramatic description of college or a constricting job.  But there are nights of labor and semesters that seem to drag one down.  There are requirements imposed.  Sometimes failure and discouragement.  I felt the shadow of death last night too, tied by my beeper to the halls of the hospital, sitting on a rough wooden bench as a bereaved mother collapsed in my arms, as I tried to gently break the news that the last hour of trying to resuscitate her baby had failed.  Not once, but twice, I prayed over the lifeless bodies and the wailing mothers.  Jesus walked right into captivity, into more than the shadow of death, but death itself.  Which enabled Him to break those chains and become light and life in a palpable, forever-way, for us.  (vs. 10-16)

Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted.  This is about the need for healing.  For physical energy, for the knitting back together of torn ligaments and broken bones, the relief from nasty colds and dangerous infections. Clearly not all sickness is a result of transgression and iniquity.  But some of our weariness and illness stems from our own bad choices.  Wrong risks or relationships.  My achilles tendons are stiff knots of pain because I don't rest and stretch them enough to heal; yet the rest of my body is winded and flabby because I don't exercise enough to be strong (classic catch-22).  I slept 3 hours (not consecutively) last night, not completely my choice but partially.  Misery all around.  Perhaps it sounds harsh to even relate suffering to sin, but the fact is this makes the good news even better.  Jesus, we are told in Is 53, was wounded for our transgressions, was bruised for our iniquities.  Which enables Him to heal us even when it's our own fault that we're in the situation that needs healing or rescue.  We don't have to deserve it, we can just cry out. (vs. 17-22).

Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters . . see a lot of chaos, danger, and challenge, and reach their wit's end, literally "their wisdom is swallowed up."  As TCK's move into the world to do business or to compete academically, they see some hard stuff.  The sea was traditionally considered the territory of hostile forces.  Our kids are getting tossed around, and their souls are in danger of melt-down.  Some days I feel like waves of crisis are pounding and throwing me from one ward to the other, and I am going to drown.  But Jesus rode out the storm on the sea, and made the waves and winds obey.  Which enables him to say "fear not" with authority.  Those aren't just pep-talk words, those are logical injunctions to remind us that He is there in the storm with the plan to calmly lead us to a safe haven when we really need it. (vs. 23-32).

The rest of the Psalm reminds us that we are living in the Kingdom of the Great Reverser.  The universe where water springs from the desert and the poor become princes; alternatively where a river can disappear and iniquity be silenced.   Where grad schools and colleges can choose you even if you know ten smarter people in your dorm alone; where the money can come through even when you're broke; where you can be visited by a dear friend or parent even if the person is ten thousand miles away; where you can meet your true love even when you feel completely alone.  Because our God works on the principles of mercy and lovingkindness, on absolute good, even when evil looks too strong.

It was hard enough to grow up as an outsider in your country of residence, then to go back to your passport country and find out you don't really belong there either.  But this life stage where we are scattered makes all of that even more difficult.  So go to Psalm 107, written for exiled hearts, and see the goodness of God for you.


mary.b.adam said...

Beautiful words, Psalm 107 and yours. Thanks.

JoAnn Hohenberger said...

I think we moms and dads are just sad when our children hurt, when they are facing really hard times. Sometimes we are afraid for them. For me, having adult children has been a great privilege and pleasure, but it has also driven me to prayer more than when they were younger. Jennifer, my mom told me the best childraising advice she ever got was also the hardest: "Pray, and set the example." When our grown kids are away, I guess we have to add "stay in touch however you can." Ah, I'm afraid all these are just rambling thoughts. My heart goes out to you; I share your concerns; God is good; God is faithful. Thank you for expressing your heart for us all.

Britton Family said...

Thank you. I am going to keep this close by in my file of important papers so that I may give it to my children in a few years. We have lived and served in central Uganda at New Hope Kasana Children's Centre for the past 7 years. My kids will be college age in a few years and I will pass this on to them at that time. I enjoy reading your blogs. But I am confused, HOW do you have time to write such depth when you are clearly living on minimal sleep stores!!!!!!! Oh yes, it is our loving God and Father who gives us all we need. Amen.