Wednesday, April 18, 2018

psalm 2018

Sometimes it is helpful, as I'm sure the psalmist would agree, to imagine one's divine interlocutor as one's middle school frenemy. You are at a slumber party at your mutual friend's house, and ugh why did she show up? What was going to be a calm evening of Hayley Mills movies, giggling in tree houses at 3am, and eating hedonist atheistic confections like cookie dough brownies and Karo-syrup-slathered kettle corn which is our 7th grade crack turns into all-night status jockeying and a grit-tooth-awful game of truth or dare.

Truth or dare plays upon our deepest fears—we inherently sense the relational danger in self-revelation, in confessing inner truths—especially in middle school. This game reinforces all of our qualms about truth-telling. The strongest among us are those unafraid to take the escalating dares. The strongest among us never have to reveal what is inside of them, in fact they prove their strength by never having to. The weak and afraid reveal what's inside of them.

When your middle school frenemy shows up at the slumber party, no effing way are you opting for the "truth." You'll take the dare, no matter what. Backing down is not an option. Not here, in your friend's basement at 4am. Here is not the time for that. In the witching hours of the night, wired on crack kettle corn and unspeakably vast amounts of chocolate—which have somehow been absorbed by your youthful metabolism—you are going to prove you are invincible, no matter what the dare.

God is like this.

God lobs all sorts of dares at you. You're just minding your own business, trying to learn Arabic, trying to write your papers and read your books and live a life of mild-to-little discomfort, in which you can operate in a mediocre, basic charity with ease.

And then God shows up to the party after supper (who invited them, you groan inside). And you're in for a rough night. Because God, like the best of frenemies, complicates things. I just want a simple day, full of simple challenges, little, tiny, simple mysteries. Please no thick, dense interactions in hallways, no desires twisting my heart into gymnast-figures. Please no people being hurt I have to advocate for, no anger at the ignorance of privilege spouting off next to me in class, no self-examination of my own failure. Why test me? Just let me operate in my white-washed version of holiness, please and thank you. Can't I just stay me-shaped? I'm not sure I'm into this whole being remade-in-the-image-of-Christ thing, anyway.

But you don't get to opt out of truth or dare. Once the frenemy has introduced the game, there's no exiting with grace. You either take the dare or fail.

I steel myself against the psalter stand, and I respond with my own dare, which isn't in a psalm, but it might as well be:

No wonder you're not very popular.
Your behavior, friend, is hardly politic.
Mothers don't like you in their houses, for you always seem to bring a storm. Chaos follows you like choirs of angels.
So bring your worst (you have, you will).
I'll be here. Today, tonight, tomorrow.
I won't go to sleep before you, I'll braid hair better, and I'll be dead in the water before I let you win this game of Scattergories—

Love on, I will requite thee.

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