A Safer Space: Praying the Psalms (Part 2)

When I was a little girl, my parents travelled a lot.  I had a great babysitter who I still fondly remember.  My dad not only traveled with my mom for fun, but he was also traveling for work.  When he would return home, I think he expected to be greeted at the door with excitement, a huge smile, a shout of “daddy” and a big hug. Maybe he expected the type of greeting that a dog gives you when you return home.  But that is not what he got with me.  Instead, I gave him the cold shoulder.  I acted like “I don’t need you anyways!  I am fine without you.”  I’m sure this made him sad, but at an early age I was giving signs that my attachment style was not as healthy as it could be.

So, when Chad and I started getting serious in our relationship, we had some challenges regarding his need for me to need him and my inability to need him.  I thought I was independent and did not like the idea of needing someone except for the fact that I really wanted to share life with someone, but I wasn’t really sure how to do that.  One day, he just asked me, “What do you need me for?” And I responded with a deer in the headlights look and said nothing.  He said, “Exactly.”  I could not see what the big deal was.  Didn’t he want someone strong and independent?  Didn’t he like that I figured out how to do things?  Didn’t he like that I wasn’t an emotional rollercoaster like many of my female friends?

The other great challenge we encountered in our first year of marriage was that it did not take much for me to think that he was up to no good. One day, my friends and I were meeting at the library to study and during the course of this study time, one of my friends said to me, “I can’t believe you are sitting here so calm while your new husband is out buying a car with his father!”  To which I replied turning all shades of red, “What?” She apologized because she assumed I knew.  I was mad on so many levels.  One, that I did not know that he was out looking for a car. Two, that he had asked his father to go and not me.  Now this second one was more about who has the power and not a feeling of rejection.  I was angry that my father n law held more power over his son than me.  Well that was going to quickly change.  I headed out of the library and quickly called him up.  He answered, “Hey sweetheart!” and I yelled and told him that I could not believe what he was doing.  Later he told me that he smiled a big smile and held the phone away from his ear until I was finished.  Then, he calmly quieted my fears and said he had a free afternoon and knew I had a meeting with friends and that he was not buying a car, just having fun looking.

As you can hear, I was struggling with what it meant to trust someone in an intimate relationship. When you begin to study trust, you quickly turn to research on attachment styles.  Attachment is the lasting emotional relationship that begins with infants and ties the infants to one or more persons in their lives. For healthy attachment to occur, parents and caregivers must attune themselves to the babies’ needs and temperaments. This means that if a parent has a different temperament, say they are very active, and the baby has a calm and quiet temperament, the parents and caregivers must adjust to the baby’s style instead of pushing the baby to change to meet the parent’s style. Babies learn to trust or mistrust on a precognitive level through the hormonal and chemical messengers they receive in their body.

Let’s look at the main 4 styles of attachment: secure, anxious insecure, avoidant secure, and disorganized insecure. 

Secure.  Need we say more!  They are emotionally supportive. They are flexible in times of closeness and in times of distance. They trust their partner to be there when they need them and can easily identify and talk about their emotions. They advocate for themselves.

Anxious Insecure. Experiences fear of abandonment; tolerates mistreatment; does not advocate for themselves and experiences anxiety when they are away from their loved ones.

Avoidant Insecure. Difficulty forming close relationships; Seems independent. Has a hard time recognizing their emotions.

Disorganized Insecure. In childhood they experienced trauma or abuse that was a betrayal of their safety; they teeter totter between their desire to love someone and their need to survive. This can look like having times where they are overly trusting and following with times of being suspicious or withdrawn. They see signs of rejection everyone even if no signs really exist.

Attachment styles give us an indication of our ability to trust. Trust is hard and if trust does not develop early it can lead to some serious challenges in adult relationships. And if it is hard to trust someone that we can experience with our senses, then just imagine how hard it is to trust in God.  I can see that it might be very easy to trust in God if your parents were emotionally present and consistently supportive.  I can see how if a parent attunes their temperament to that of their child, then a child would grow up with an easier time trusting that God loves them for exactly how God created them to be.  But if you struggle with feelings of abandonment, then maybe you more quickly sense God’s abandonment.  If you put up with being mistreated because of your attachment style, then maybe the view of God that makes sense to you is one that sends people to hell if they don’t say the right words or pray the right prayer.  If you don’t need anyone because you don’t trust them to be there for you anyways, then maybe you have a hard time understanding how to trust God.  If you have fear and anxiety when forming intimate human relationships, then maybe those feelings emerge when you pour your heard out to God.

If you are like me and you have a few rough edges, then rest assured that your attachment style has served you well in the past.  It was developed for your and my protection and survival and you and I can grow to have a more secure attachment style when we realize that the attachment style we are currently operating out of no longer serves us.

These are the very human things that we think about during the season of Lent. This year we are focusing on Lent as an ancient path where we find rest for our souls. The ancient path is not a path chosen by many because it invites us into deep reflection about the complex human experience. So, Lent is a perfect time to consider the many words found in the psalms that give voice to the struggle of what it means to be in relationship with God, nature, and each other. The Psalms are like opening the private prayer journal of a people. It is very intimate, personal, but also very communal in that for thousands of years our people have sung these prayerful words giving expression to emotions that are both their own and larger than individual experience. In the Psalms we can find a connection point across generations because if you are feeling something and wondering if others have felt the same way, when you read the psalms, you will find that you are not alone.

Today, we are looking at Psalm 62.  This psalm is divided into 3 sections and so we will look at each section.

The first section is verses 1-4.  In this section the Psalmist begins with these words, “My soul waits in silence for God alone.” The word only or alone is used 6x’s in this Psalm.  This first verse orients the entire passage in that this Psalm is about waiting on God in times suffering.  But this waiting in silence is not just a passive silence.  It is one that signals hope and is a radical act of trust in God’s power and desire to do good.  The Psalmist talks about taking refuge in God by stating that God is his rock and stronghold so nothing will shake him.  This reminds us of Jesus passage where he tells each one of us to build our house on the rock, so that when the winds come and the waters rise, we will not be greatly shaken

In verse 3 &4 the Psalmist tells God about his suffering. He describes his enemies attacking the weak and the vulnerable those who are like leaning walls and tottering fences.  What are our enemies today?  The Psalmist gives us two: a lack of honesty and jealousy. 

Maybe we might add to that greed, materialism, intolerance, hate, racism, fear, inequality, some say that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to caring for Mother Earth. The Dalai Lama in The Book of Joy adds that our thoughts are another enemy. When we are suffering, there is the initial wound. But how we think about and process that wound can either create more suffering or less suffering.  For example, if someone were to attack my character by writing a horrible article in the Leader, then that is the initial wound.  But my perspective about the wound can either be the second arrow in my heart or lead to my healing.  I can think to myself, “Wow, they are right. I am a terrible person. I should not be a minister. I am not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not wise enough.” That line of thinking only causes more suffering.  Or, I can think to myself. You know, I am not perfect and I can use this as an opportunity to pick one thing that I can do to grow.  I can also remember that many leaders from various religious traditions have been attacked and persecuted for who God created them to be and the role God asked them to play, so I can take comfort in that the Great Cloud of Witness knows this story has been played over and over again. 

The perspective that there is something that I can do about it and pausing to find solidarity in suffering actually eases the suffering.     

In verses 5-10, we enter the second part of the psalms.  In this section, the Psalmist is shifting from his own personal experience to encourage the community to learn from his experience.  What is he wanting them to learn?  He wants them to learn that it is only God. God alone has the power and desires to work all things for good.

He is talking to them about where to place their trust.  For the Psalmist and in many cases for us, people have let us down and we lose part of our ability to trust them.  The Psalmist later writes that people who attack the vulnerable are only breath; he writes that they are even lighter than the breath.  Even though we can lessen the power that humans have in our lives, it is still much easier to put our trust in human power when we can see, hear, smell, and touch humans, but the psalmist is inviting us to see that human power or the power of money cannot be trusted to secure our lives because they are fleeting..here today and gone tomorrow. Only God is our rock and our fortress. Only God stands the test of time. The Psalmist writes, “God alone has the power and desires to work all things for good. So my soul waits in silence for God alone;”

But what does it mean to trust in God? 
One of the commentators wrote that trust involves risk.  This commentator quoted from Jurgen Moltmann who wrote, “We trust in God because God trusts in us.” Or to say this a different way, “We risk following God because God risks calling us.”

Remember the ancestors of our faith, Abraham and Sarah.  God came to them and said, “Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  Then God promised 3 things: You will become a great nation; your name will be great; everyone will be blessed through you.

And so, they left home, risked everything and now they are the mother and father of our faith tradition. 

Think about the first disciples.  In Mark 1: 16-20, we read that Jesus walked beside the sea of Galilee where he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake.  Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Come, follow me.” And the scriptures say that they left their nets and followed him.  Then Jesus saw James and his brother John fishing with their father Zebedee and he called to them and they left their boat, they left their father and followed Jesus.  These disciples took a risk and are the apostles in our faith tradition.

The Psalmist closes this psalm in verses 11-12. In this last section, he is telling us why we can trust in God.  The Psalmist writes that we can trust God because God is faithful or steadfast and that God has power. And it’s the combination of the two that are important.

If you’ll remember last week, I shared with you that the word used for steadfast love or faithfulness is Hesed in Hebrew.  Hesed is used 250x’s in the Hebrew Bible and ½ of those times, you find it in the Psalms and so it is not a surprise that we see this word pop up again in our Psalm for today. Sometimes in the Hebrew bible, Hesed is translated as faithfulness, but it is a faithfulness out of generosity and not out of obligation.  Hesed is translated as loyalty which embodies mercy. The root of Hesed means to bow ones head towards another in covenantal relationship. You can think about it like this…in covenantal relationship there are rights and responsibilities for both parties.  But in the case of a covenantal relationship between humans and God, God is hesed. God’s character is a generous faithfulness and God’s loyalty is full of mercy.  So, we as the other party in the covenantal relationship can find a sense of safety and rest in the relationship because God does not just offer or promise Hesed; God is hesed. No matter what happens God faithfulness is generous towards us.  No matter where we find ourselves God remains mercifully loyal.

Now mix Hesed with God’s power and you have a God worthy of your trust.  What this means to me is that As Creator God calls God’s creation good and so the natural progression would be for God’s power to sustain also continues working to bring about good in this world. And not only is God’s power oriented towards creating good and sustaining goodness, but God’s desire is to see all things work together for good. And so we can join the Psalmist in saying, “God alone has the power and desires to work all things for good. So my soul waits in silence for God alone;”

And as we wait, we may not see all that is happening. In Chad and my relationship, I have felt that God worked all things together for good through my mess of trust issues.  I’m not sure where you saw me in the 4 attachment styles but I would say that over the past 21 years that I have shifted to behaving in ways that show that I am securely attached. Situations can certainly still trigger me and make me lose my mind, but I also am able to recognize my style and offer myself some compassion when I find myself in that state, so that I can shift to a more secure way of relating before I pick up the phone and yell at my husband!

I’m sure that you have stories of how God has worked in your life to bring about good or maybe you are in the middle of that story hoping that God is working for the good of all. Paul in the letter to the Ephesians prays for the church in Ephesus and I will say it is a prayer for us to trust in God’s power and God’s Hesed. Let the words of this prayer wash over you and prepare you to come to the communion table.

I pray that out of God’s glorious riches, you might be strengthened by God’s power through God’s spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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