Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Journey to Justice”
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
I am what is known kindly as an “older mom.” I gave birth to my first son at thirty-seven; my second, two weeks before my fortieth birthday. While I am still in the life phase of carpooling and sleepovers and forgotten school lunches, most of my high school friends are welcoming first, second, and even third grandchildren. Yet, we still have much in common: I worry about my kids a good deal, and my friends have begun to worry about their grandchildren a good deal. And as my boys shoot skyward and my gray hairs accumulate, I—never a slouch in the worrying department—have even begun to worry about my own, yet to-be-born grandchildren. What will their future hold? I wonder. We wonder, collectively, of all our beloved children.
Psalm 22 is helpfully full of predictions for posterity and future generations and “people yet unborn.” But unlike the parents and grandparents I know, unlike myself, the Psalmist doesn’t seem a bit worried about their future. In fact, he seems downright optimistic—by way of jubilation and awe. The Psalmist prophesies that the Lord shall hear the cries of the afflicted, and not turn away; that the poor shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord will deliver deliverance itself. Because the Lord has dominion over . . . well, everything.
Of course, these favorable predictions come with one small catch: God’s people—including their offspring—are instructed that they must praise the Lord; must stand in awe of the Lord; must turn to, and bow down before, and worship the Lord.
They must live for the Lord.
These are troubling, disturbing times—an ancient lament that I’m sure must have rung throughout the City of David as of now. Yet unlike the folks in the Psalmist’s day, we inhabitants of the twenty-first century face the unprecedented threats of global nuclear destruction and full-scale environmental catastrophe. Makes sense, doesn’t it, that we would worry about the future of our children and grandchildren, of the planet itself? And given these conditions, it’s easy for us to let fear and anxiety take hold of us, of our very center. We’re quick to form our opinions, take sides, dig in our heels, lash out at strangers—and often our own friends and family—for not holding these same opinions. To think that if others don’t believe as we do, then they must be corrected, or ridiculed, or shunned, or hated. And when I saw “we,” I mean Christians.
Besides being an older mom—and maybe because of it—I love Lent. I am a Lent geek. Give me Ash Wednesday over Fat Tuesday anytime. Because I know when Ash Wednesday ushers in the Lenten season, I have a chance, even if just a small one, to do things a bit differently. To slow down. To reflect. To question my own opinions and fearful prophecies and even my faith itself. To listen to the words of a Psalmist that tell me I, too, have a chance to experience jubilation and awe—if only I will listen.
If only I’ll choose to live for the Divine.
What would it be like to live fully for the Divine? To live into the words of an ancient Psalm, and an ancient prophecy of hope and incomprehensible joy, rather than into our own worries, and fears, and prejudices?
My great hope is that with the coming of this Lenten season, we might all find the time to set aside our worry, our fear, to reflect on what living for God actually means for us. What that might actually look like. And to find the grace and wisdom, and the courage, to act accordingly.
Prayer: Divine Creator, Parent of us all—in this Lenten season may your presence be close to us—freeing us from our fears, and guiding us always to live in the way that is pleasing in Your sight. Amen.