“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
So, Thomas Paine, philosopher, political theorist and activist, under the pseudonym Common Sense, penned as the first line of his first volume of pamphlets, entitled The American Crisis, meant to inspire the colonists to support the fight to win freedom from Great Britain.
It seems, feels to me that today America again is at war. Not with Great Britain or any other nation, but rather with itself.
With our presidential election a spare seventy-three days away, I cannot recall a time in my lifetime:
When the flames of political, social, and racial tumult burned so high and hot and simultaneously and all under the suffocating veil of a viral pandemic…
When polarity was the characteristic state of our (dis)union…
When angered words and angrier threats, displacing all civil speech, became our understood, even justified lingua franca; our common language of our daily engagements one with another.
These are times that trouble me. Deeply. Contrary to the hymnist Horatio Spafford, who endured his own trials and anguish, it is not “well with my soul.”
As a person of prayer, I pray. Particularly, I turn to the song book of the Bible, the Psalter, and, especially, the psalms of lament. For there, I find words suffused with realism that echo my cries of sorrow and, therefore, mirror the strife I see around me. Words not of light and strength, but rather of darkness and weakness. Words of the honest acknowledgement that the God in whom I believe and in whom I place my trust is the God who has created a world where order and disorder abide under the same heaven and tread the same terrain. Therefore, a God to whom and at whom I, without delicacy or nicety, can complain. For my grief and its causes, which, should I continue to internalize them, will unleash the ravenous and devouring beasts of sadness and anger, are beyond my power to contain or amend.
One of my favorites is Psalm 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
Nevertheless, I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because the Lord has dealt bountifully with me.
When I pray suchwise, my soul moves. From disorientation to a new orientation. From fear to restored, even reformed faith. From sorrow and anger to new resolution, even and especially when the causes of my dismay persist.
Thanks be to God.
© 2020 PRA