Sometimes I think I understand the meaning in the psalms but, as I come to appreciate the importance of experience rather than or in addition to intellectual grasp of a reality, I know I have a long way to go. Take this morning’s reading of psalm 63 for example. I’ve been thirsty in my life, especially when I’ve been doing outside work or walking a long way in the heat of the day, but I’ve never been crossing a desert without a canteen with the sun beating down on me. Can I really understand the depth of the psalmist’s cry: My soul is thirsting for you, O my God? If I stop with only that refrain, my answer is no; it seems a rather insipid expression of desire for God for someone used to running water in three rooms of our house. Thank goodness for the tug of poetic language that follows, lifting that longing to the highest pitch of the soul’s song. I suggest saying it aloud – or better yet singing it to the God who awaits our call.
O God, you are my God, eagerly I seek for you, my soul thirsts for you, my whole being longs for you in this dry and barren land where there is no water. I lift my eyes and behold! I see you standing in your holy place; I gaze and see your strength, your power, and the beauty of your face. And now I know that one drop of goodness from your hand is better far than life itself. I cannot stop these lips from praising you. So as long as life shall last for me, I will bless the name of God and lift up my hands to you in prayer. For my whole heart and soul are filled by you and satisfied as with a feast that loosens tongue and lips with songs of praise. When evening comes I go to be with you, and through the passing hours of the night I invoke your name in prayer. So whether day or night, it matters not, for you are ever at my side to guide, protect and shade as by a sheltering wing. My soul ever clings to you in joy; your strong hand reaches out and holds me fast. (PS 63: 1-8)