Very often when I read Psalm 55 I am prompted to say to the psalmist, “Just stop already. Your prayers won’t be answered as long as you insist that God do it your way. Let go and let God, for heaven’s sake!”
It’s a bit of any angry response that is evoked. I know I am reacting to the self-righteousness I judge the psalmist to be. A black and white thinker. Dualistic. Either-or. Presumes to know God. No hint of an appreciation for mystery. No room for doubt. No humbleness before God. I know – not a fair opinion of the psalmist. And certainly not loving. But, I have to be truthful with myself and its these conclusions which erect a barrier of entry of sorts to anything the Spirit could teach me with this psalm.
I have just finished reading another Richard Rohr book, The Art of Letting Go, so there was really no chance I would hear anything different from the Holy Spirit than what I did. With this psalm and many others – especially those that not only tell God what to do, but also presume so much about the so-called enemy – the ‘other,’ my ego, my self gets in the way.
I’ve been working on this trying to learn evermore how to pray, read, live in the mystery – in the questions. There is, indeed, an art to letting go and falling into our abba Father’s heart, from whence we came.
Rohr’s teaching is this – letting go. And he uses as a model for ‘how to’ the life of St. Francis of Assisi – the most venerated and revered saints among all Christian denominations and even non-Christians.
Early in the introduction to Rohr’s book he provides the history for why Francis found in the natural world – in the birds, trees, sky, animals – a connection with God that felt pretty close to direct. Mystery experienced. Holy Spirit infused.
And in expanding on the notion that the natural world does reveal God and provide access to the mystery of God’s will, God’s plan, God’s faith in us, Rohr points us to the cycles of life and death so readily observable in nature. Things die to give birth – as in grain. Things have to fall to fly. Things have to go dormant to survive. Things have to change to grow.
Easily observable but not so easily understood – rather – so easily accepted as part of God’s way for us. Dying to live? Falling to fly?
Rohr includes in this introduction a poem from the God-loving Austrian poet Ranier Maria Rilke. It speaks so powerfully to Rohr’s teaching about letting go, integrating the natural world and the Holy. On first hearing the poem my breath was taken away – literally.
It hasn’t left me since last week when I first heard it read by Rohr. And then this morning’s psalm, so entrenched in its dualism – its either/or, its judgment, its blindness to the ‘other’ and stubbornness in accepting that God has him where he has him for a reason, the focus outward instead of inward, and the presumptive petition to God to solve his problem by doing it his way – that were it not for Rilke’s poem lingering in my head and heart, I would have spent very little time on the psalm today.
But the Spirit had me here – lingering – letting go and letting God and ending my reflection time with a heart for the psalmist and a deeper understanding of his desire to please God.
What he describes in his petition is what Rilke perhaps means by ‘things’ and ‘entanglements’. Perhaps the psalmist is just momentarily distracted – overwhelmed – by his circumstance to let go. And perhaps just the act of describing what looks to him to be a dire situation is what God needs him to do in order to get real and trust that his abba Father has intended only a true self, best life for him all along.
So with no more being said, I gratefully share Rilke’s poem, How Surely Gravity’s Law, that the Spirit breathed into Psalm 55, taking me deeper in my understanding of how to let go and let God.
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.