A poetic reflection on Psalm 88
Every few weeks
as I roll through the Psalms
in the Daily Office
I always end up bumping into this one
and saying to myself,
“Oh yeah… This is the one
that doesn’t have a happy ending, and never will.
We just sit in the dark with that poor guy at the end.”
Psalm 88 is such a rulebreaker,
when it comes to the format of the average Psalm.
Most of the Psalms have a standard format, you know.
First, the Psalmist addresses God; sometimes intimately.
next comes the praise, raw sadness, or lament;
after that a petition.
Finally, the Psalmist reorients in some way
and asserts a degree of trust in God
to make things right, somehow.
Psalm 88, though, is pure lament…
and at the end, we don’t hear the trust,
we don’t see any reorientation–
We are merely asked to sit with the author
in raw uncomfortable darkness
in what feels like the moment
the light next to the aumbry
sputters out on Maundy Thursday
when someone covers it
with a silicone potholder.
I have lived long enough to know
that some pains in life are never resolved,
sometimes re-orientation doesn’t happen,
and that no one dies
with zero unfinished business,
with no regrets,
and with all conflicts resolved.
Then one day it hit me
as I was sitting in a mentally dark place,
yet somehow still managing
to be faithful to praying the Office every day.
“We spend a lot of time
searching for God in the light,
any glimmer of light…
that God is just as present
in the darkness…
because darkness and light
are both the same to God.”
So now when I hear
at the end of this psalm
and remember those times
when I felt that darkness
was my only companion,
I remember the time
I learned to look for God
between the stars,
instead of looking for the stars.
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as Interim Priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal, MO.