My soul clings to the dust;
revive me according to your word.
When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Put false ways far from me;
and graciously teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your ordinances before me.
I cling to your decrees, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame.
I run the way of your commandments,
for you enlarge my understanding.
Our latest monster-psalm section is shaped by the stark image in the opening line: “My soul clings to the dust.” Any line involving the word “clinging” is obviously a desperate image and “dust” is a word for something of no value. If you cling to dust, it means you have nothing else to live for. The psalmist asks God to revive him “according to your word.” So the life that will be breathed back into the psalmist is God’s word itself. The law that the psalmist delights in is the only thing that he has to cling to. But if the psalmist has God’s law, then why does he say that he’s clinging to the dust?
As I was doing my Monday prayer walk around Burke Lake, God really convicted me with a tough meaning for this psalm in my life, because I have come to a place today in this whole blogging/writing expedition in which I really am “clinging to the dust.” It happens with many things in life that you start with a vision and a legitimate calling from God to do something. As you start doing whatever it is, you start to lose the forest for the trees, you grow obsessive about statistics, and basically the vision that you began with turns into a handful of dust.
As I guess you’re aware, I got my very first essay published on Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians blog yesterday. It was a word that God had put on my heart, an illustration of God’s judgment in Isaiah 2 that I hoped would help people to understand the gospel better. But it turned so quickly into an ego thing. I emailed the 20-30 friends whom I’ve known for the longest time telling each of them that I was getting my first essay published and asking them to read it and share it on their facebook page if they liked it. I guess I had some grandiose idea of what this would look like, based on the viralized articles that I’ve seen sweeping through facebook in the past.
My friends’ response was disappointing; a handful of people stepped up but many did not. I’m not sure I could have avoided being disappointed. But it took me back to all the other moments when I’ve felt like a rejected outsider: the parties I had to invite myself to in high school, the time I ran for president of Alpha Phi Omega in college and lost, the seminary professor who never responded to my emails when I wanted him so badly as a mentor. Being an outsider is at the core of my spiritual identity. It’s who I’ve always been. It’s why I’m a pastor. God has used social rejection as a powerful tool in the past to give me a hunger I don’t think I could have otherwise developed.
I think that God helps purify my motives for writing by making people ignore me. My prayer is that I would let go of the dust I’m clinging to and all the worldly need for affirmation that I seek in my writing so that I could one day write purely for the purpose of sharing God’s word with people. This transformation won’t happen unless God breaks me of my need which will necessarily involve some pain.
I hope this transparency isn’t off-putting. It’s such an abominably silly thing to care about: that people listen to what I have to say. I suppose that every preacher has to wrestle through the overlap between God’s call and our sinfully egotistical needs. I’m grateful that God uses me anyway and I pray that He will continue to sanctify me into ego-less-ness. I want to love Your law for its own sake and not as a means to my own glory.