1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
(New Revised Standard Version)
I haven’t been reading scripture much. I haven’t been able to connect, to concentrate or meditate. I scroll right by the scripture memes in my Facebook feed because I’ve been sensitive lately to the way we take verses out of context to speak to our own lives. I know scripture gives so many of my friends strength and encouragement. I wish it did for me too, right now, but it hasn’t.
I can feel myself entering a season of fewer words. Or rather, it’s a season of complicated feelings and overwhelmed schedules, which leaves little room for theological reflection. In ten spare minutes the other day, I just stopped and it was exactly what I needed. I turned off all the noise, left my phone in my bag, and just sat quietly. I turned off the running lists in my head, the thoughts and worries and to-dos. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and stayed right there in that moment. It was glorious.
So for this little while, where I’m in need of quiet and stillness, I’ve decided to try reading the Psalms, which is a bold choice since I haven’t been connecting with scripture. I’m making no promises of getting through any of them, except this one right here today, which I read in four different translations, trying, willing myself to hear it…
“You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom. You’re not at all like the wicked, who are mere windblown dust” (v. 3-4, The Message).
I’ll be honest. I don’t like this psalm very much. I don’t like the binaries of righteous/wicked, as if we all fall into just one of those two categories. There’s been too many binaries lately, too much labeling and side-taking. I’d much rather say that there is righteousness and wickedness in all of us, that we all have to fight against our own faults and strive toward goodness. And there is some agency involved: we can choose a path, choose whether to sit down (or to stand up), choose to delight and meditate.
How many of my words and actions lately have been fresh fruit? How many have been windblown dust?
I keep thinking about the image of the tree: planted by the stream, yielding fruit, with leaves that do not wither. It’s evoking images of Eden for me: the green of a garden that was made perfect by God.
But we don’t live in Eden. Right now, we’re in the season of withering leaves, and it is beautiful still. I think there is a time for some of our leaves to wither, to make way for something new. We have to let some things go, let them crinkle beneath our feet. There is beauty in the dying: the way the colors become brighter before dulling. And there is rest is the release, rest in the quiet of winter, before new life springs again. I’m looking forward to that rest.