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Psalm 138

Psalm 138 depicts someone aware of a meaningful life with God. The psalmist’s words capture human experience in light of God’s active presence in the world. This psalm arose from the lives of people held captive in Babylon. From freedom, exiles told of the LORD’s steady love. A song of whole-hearted thanks erupted from people who knew God as both capable and close. The psalmist expresses with.reverence. They’ve seen the Divine acting in their favor through harsh life circumstances. Such a disposition has potential to move listeners to an awe-filled encounter of God.

:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;

:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

Embracing the posture of the psalmist, we too can experience the nearness of God. We can know freedom found in a close relationship. Spiritual perception can shift as a desire for mutual affection becomes our focus. The tradition of lighting an Advent candle gives people an opportunity to act in faith. The transition from autumn to winter hits us hard and a candle’s light influences mood. The symbolic gesture ignites hope in a season when temperatures drop like leaves from a tree. In a moment of anticipating the coming Messiah our hearts warm. A meaningful connection between God and humanity comes into light.

:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.

The beginning of the hashtag #relationshipgoals revealed a longing for relational perfection. Social media presented the photo of a white-haired man pushing his sweetheart through a parking lot on a grocery cart and captured hearts. The snapshot shared carefree, pure love. Internet media audiences compared their personal relationships to a photograph of simple, maturing bliss. Is this the result of putting our whole heart into relationships?

Jewish theologian Martin Buber held a basic argument that human existence is interpersonal. We are not isolated, free-floating objects. People are subjects existing in relationship with people, the world, and God. In Buber’s thought, God represents the eternal Thou. Maintaining such a reverent posture toward the Divine inspires reverence for others. The vertical disposition informs the horizontal and all life gains meaning. When approaching one another with I/Thou we engage out of mutual respect, love and care. Might this help us to become what we long to see in life?

:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD

:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.

A young mom became bound to the pressure of suburban life. Gripped by a need for perfection she scrolls through social media posts. Her dining room never matches up. “Why can’t I capture that look?” The post by her favorite retailer shares an image of a room no one lives in. It’s pretty and compelling, but the table has no life. No one ever eats there. The image portrays space untouched by everyday living. Yet in a moment of stillness, relief comes as she realizes, “NO ONE LIVES THERE.” In an instant she feels better. For a moment she knows what it means to be free. If we are still and thoughtful, can we grow in strength of soul as we relate to all that comes our way?

:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

There are people and places that reflect the near association with the lowly. They keep away from the haughty. These capture what the psalmist shares as they make room for themselves, God, and others. They offer support and encouragement through difficult times. They change the course of human history. At a Baccalaureate, Howard Thurman encouraged graduates to listen to the genuine inside them. This practice would root them so they could achieve their dreams. Being in touch with their genuine self makes room for becoming all they can be. In turn, it enables them to encourage the same in the lives of people.

Such practice sustains those who work alongside others. Think of young and old people paired up to work on the completion of job applications together. Imagine tech-savvy students helping the technology challenged. Gratitude is bound to resound from such relational support. Out of sincerity, we are bound to hear, “Thank God for ya’ll”. Might it be possible to know God in a meaningful way in our service with others?

Spiritual formation leaders guide people to engage in disciplines. They help the willing to achieve balance in their life journey. Spiritual Directors encourage developing habits to cultivate awareness. It may be challenging, but people can discover more about themselves and others. We can experience healing born of forgiveness, authentic interpersonal connection, and love. Engaging our imagination helps. Ignatian spirituality considers contemplation to be praying with imagination.[1] Placing ourselves with the psalmist we can gain meaningful insight of the connection we have with God. We too will become a confident world changing force proclaiming,

:8 “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” [1]O’Brien, Kevin, SJ. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Excercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Daily Life. Loyola Press, Chicago, IL, 2011.

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