A Reading from Psalm 102
1 LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; *
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
2 Incline your ear to me; *
when I call, make haste to answer me,
3 For my days drift away like smoke, *
and my bones are hot as burning coals.
4 My heart is smitten like grass and withered, *
so that I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of the voice of my groaning *
I am but skin and bones.
6 I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, *
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake and groan; *
I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.
8 My enemies revile me all day long, *
and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me.
9 For I have eaten ashes for bread *
and mingled my drink with weeping.
10 Because of your indignation and wrath *
you have lifted me up and thrown me away.
11 My days pass away like a shadow, *
and I wither like the grass.
12 But you, O LORD, endure for ever, *
and your Name from age to age.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to have mercy upon her; *
indeed, the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants love her very rubble, *
and are moved to pity even for her dust.
15 The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD, *
and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, *
and his glory will appear.
17 He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless; *
he will not despise their plea.
18 Let this be written for a future generation, *
so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.
19 For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high; *
from the heavens he beheld the earth;
20 That he might hear the groan of the captive *
and set free those condemned to die;
21 That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD, *
and his praise in Jerusalem;
22 When the peoples are gathered together, *
and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.
23 He has brought down my strength before my time; *
he has shortened the number of my days;
24 And I said, “O my God,
do not take me away in the midst of my days; *
your years endure throughout all generations.
25 In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations
of the earth, *
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
26 They shall perish, but you will endure;
they all shall wear out like a garment; *
as clothing you will change them,
and they shall be changed;
27 But you are always the same, *
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants shall continue, *
and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight.”
My bones are hot as burning coals.
I forget to eat my bread.
I lie awake and groan.
Have you ever experienced grief like this? I suspect you have. We all carry big grief and heavy burdens — not only those who live with us now, but all people throughout time. Our experiences have been shared by the psalmist today (who puts it so, so well!), and by mothers and spouses and friends and strangers the world over.
One of the most unsettling pieces of grief, for me, is its bodily manifestation. As we process the hurts we suffer, our bodies must experience, process, and heal as well. I’m not sure that our culture has done a great job teaching us how to do this well, but we know it is true, because God made us as bodies. We are physical, embodied beings, who experience the world and relationships through our bodies. The psalmist reveals this as he makes analogies to the emotional pain we might feel by using physical examples. How often, though, do we seek to dull our physical pain with medications or alcohol, rather than allow ourselves to feel and move through the pain that is present in order to find freedom from it?
I wonder often whether the pains in our bodies that have an emotional or psychological connection are something like children (doesn’t God often use children to teach us truths?). When my children feel the need for connection, validation, attention, they get louder and louder, more and more insistent, until I turn my attention to them. And when I offer them gentle, generous, full attention, they quiet much faster and with much more depth than when I offer halfway, irritated, flippant attention.
Could we offer full and compassionate attention to our bodies and their processing by using such prayers which speak to the reality of our bodies, our souls, and most importantly, the reality of God with us?
The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Central Tanganyika – The Anglican Church of Tanzania
St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Houston