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A song of ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
by Kate Kooyman
The people of Israel were experts in the art of hope. In this Psalm, we see it clearly: this picture of what it will be like when God redeems them. What it will feel like when they are delivered.
One morning this week, I was crying. I’m not really a crier. So I did it in a corner of my kitchen, because my kids were eating breakfast and I’m trying really hard not to scare them.
I was crying because a man who campaigned on a platform of xenophobia, who is an unapologetic sexist, who has proposed the enactment of war crimes, who has been celebrated by white supremacists, who has mocked and belittled the vulnerable, has become our next commander in chief. In the wake of that, countless of acts of hate and harassment have been committed all over the country. One happened to my neighbor. Another to the child of my friend.
I’m lucky to be part of a community who feels this with me. I look around and I see others whose eyes are red, whose thoughts are scattered, who are stunned and broken. It feels like the ground has shifted under our feet. It’s not just that we are grieving that our dreams won’t be realized; it’s also that we are afraid. The promises of what will come next are terrifying.
It’s hard for me to be a Christian right now. My colleagues and I have been sowing these seeds for a while, and we’ve been expecting to see fruit. We’ve been talking to Christians about immigration — busting those pervasive myths, explaining how the system is broken, remembering our xenophobic history, highlighting Scripture’s repeated calls to hospitality. And now, I’m mad at the church. I feel defeated, and I feel betrayed, and I feel scared. (And this is a fraction of what I would feel if I were Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, or one of the many other groups who can quote the threats that have been made against them by our elected president.)
I’m tempted to put down the seeds. I’d rather quit sowing the seeds than keep dreaming that they’re ever going to grow.
After so many reminders from Christians that “God is in control!”, I’m tempted to make demands. The time is now. The seeds are good. The soil is ready. We are desperate. Do something. I’d rather demand that river of justice than sit around singing about it.
I’m grateful that the people of Israel could sing about “streams in the Negev” in the midst of their dry season. I’m grateful that they could proclaim, in advance, their conviction that “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” They were far from joy; they were sowing those seeds while weeping.
While I was crying in the corner of the kitchen, my kid was drawing this picture.
Friends, we’re going to keep sowing those seeds. We’re going to see each other soon, and our arms are going to be bursting with full-grown sheaves. And we’re going to say to each other, “Only God could have done this.”
I think that the tears are from God and it’s good that you shed them. It shows your deep compassion for the hurting. I think that God himself is weeping with us over the brokenness in our society, the divisiveness, the hatred. I HAVE to believe this. This is the kind of God I worship – he gets down there in the mud and mire and aches with people – particularly the vulnerable. So, why did God allow this – the election of this man? Maybe the theologians can answer that, if there IS an answer. Right now, I’m sitting with the questions. But I’m also trying to draw closer to God than ever before. There was a song I listened to this morning in the car: “I’ll Not Be Shaken” (Ps. 62), composed and sung by Wendell Kimbrough, a young musician who just visited Calvin’s campus and is coming back for the Worship Symposium. These two verses in particular spoke to me
Put not your hope in gain of riches;
Seek not your rest in empty wealth.
The rich are weak; the poor are mighty,
Who turn to God alone for help.
Pour out your heart to God our refuge
And trust in Him to hear you cry.
No other hope will never fail you;
No other love will not run dry.
Thanks, Kathy. And thanks, Kate. Your words of lament and hope are helpful.
HOPE is an extremely hard word to spell and sing these days! . It demands tons of trust which is in short supply. I feel with you “weary in doing good”!. “How long, Lord,” is it till your promised “due time, when we shall reap if we faint not?”. … ( Galatians 6:9) …
Thank you for the encouragement. I know it is true and my faith is somewhere at the bottom of my heap of anger and resentment. Right now I’m struggling to find it.