Psalm 33:5

by Gwen Shipley, CFDM Northwest Co-Director

Psalm 33:5 – The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Confession: Reading the Bible is sometimes hard for me. I’ve had to learn to like it–again. I struggle to believe what it says some days, if I’m honest. But it’s also true that I am reclaiming its truth, its beauty, its gifts, redeeming it from a lifetime of utilitarian approaches to scripture. I confess to it here because it’s an integral part of my journey from a very young age. It’s especially difficult when an absence of righteousness seems evident or profound injustice momentarily prevails; when natural disaster or disease ravages a nation. And it’s a humbling reality when I find myself directing a spiritual formation program whose aim is to nurture an unapologetically Christ-centered approach to the human experience! While a lifetime’s exposure to the Bible helped me know about God, the knowing God would only come over time and with intention.  It would come by being with God.    

I was reminded along the way, that you can know about someone without knowing them. I was reminded again recently while sitting in a dark theater with a small but diverse crowd watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I listened to others’ sniffles and sobs in between my own as the friends of Mr. Rogers, Yo-Yo Ma among them, recounted the impact Fred’s life had had on theirs. From the very opening moments of the film, each of us was moved beyond our capacity to maintain a detached movie-going demeanor as, one by one, family, friends and associates told how they were changed by being in the presence of Fred Rogers. Of course, I knew about him. So did millions of Americans. But the people who lived and worked with him, they knew him.

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The story of his lifetime of service to children grew more compelling as he revealed that as a child, he himself suffered from debilitating anxiety. As a method of managing it, “My mother told me to always look for the helpers,” he says.  That line came back to me recently when I came across Psalm 33:5:

…The earth is full of [God’s] unfailing love.

My inner cynic stirred but the wise counsel of Fred’s mother persisted. Might we see more of the unfailing love of which the psalmist says the earth is full if we, too, always looked for it? Maybe I would even find it in scripture—if I always looked for it.

While the Bible is claimed to be a narrative of God’s unfailing love, I just as often find it billed as a “manual for living” (Proverbs) or a recitation of “moral obligations” (Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, etc.) or weaponized when the “authoritative word of God” (Gen-Rev) seems necessary. All of these hold varying degrees of veracity but with a relational significance hopelessly remote to the deepest longings of my soul.

It was adding regular spiritual practices–like *lectio divina--in an environment of freedom and grace, that opened me once again to the Spirit’s invitation to an encounter in scripture with the God whose Beloved I am, whose you are. Yes, perhaps I could find God’s unfailing love—even there. I chose to trust that whatever else was needed would follow.

As it turns out, Fred Rogers was an ordained minister whose pulpit was a television studio. He, too, had come to view the words printed on the page as an invitation to encounter the One to whom they refer; he valued solitude and silence…and scripture. I wonder if the reason he could be of such help to others is, in part, that he had trained himself early to always look for the ways that the earth was full of God’s unfailing love–and looking for the helpers was one of those ways. Perhaps we can still learn from Mr. Rogers. Perhaps if we always look for it, we will discover that…

…The earth is full of [God’s] unfailing love.

 

*CFDM is rooted in Ignatian spirituality which places an emphasizes seeing God in all things. Spiritual Formation 1 facilitates this kind of seeing beginning with the practice of encountering God’s love through reading for transformation as well as information. If you are interested in learning more, contact us at http://www.cfdmnorthwest.org.

 

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