My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. Psalm 119:139
I resonate with this verse way too much. Isn’t this verse the battle-cry of all the angry, sanctimonious Christian bloggers whether we’re raging against those liberals or those fundamentalists or those mainliners or those evangelicals? Since my enemies ignore “your” words, God, I will SCREAM LOUDER. I’m sure there have been instances in time where someone could cling to the words of this psalm with completely sincere righteous indignation. I cannot, because the people I treat like enemies are impassioned, dedicated disciples of Christ whose zeal has probably worn them out and blinded them to their flaws just like my zeal wears me out and blinds me to my flaws.
The psalms really are a book of “I” statements. For those of you unfamiliar with counselor-speak, an “I” statement is when I tell someone who’s upset me how I’m feeling without trying to make claims about what they were trying to do when they hurt me. Instead of saying, “You did,” I say, “I feel.” This helps the other person sympathize with me without being defensive in the face of accusations. The psalms give us permission to bring our “I” statements before God. They are filled with self-righteousness and envy and vindictiveness. Some of them even accuse God of being aloof or unfair. It’s very important to read the psalms as examples of what God is capable of receiving from us rather than seeing them as prescriptive models of attitudes that we should obey.
For example, when Psalm 137:9 says about Babylon, “Blessed is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks,” we should use that verse to justify slaughtering our enemies’ children in warfare. It is expressing the raw anguish of a people who had probably had their babies cruelly slaughtered in front of them.
In any case, because the psalmists were bold in how they spoke to God, I know that I can open my heart and pour out my rage about the terrible theology of the most popular megachurch preachers, how Christianity has been filled with all sorts of middle-class idols, how the Methodist church is the most spineless institution that’s ever been created, etc, etc. God’s not going to strike me with lightning for having a messy mix of prophetic insight and sinful envy and self-righteousness.
My real prayer underneath the words that I say when I tell God how much I burn with zeal for Him and how my enemies are making a mockery of Him is that I need Him to receive my messy mix of love for Him and sinful pride and set me straight, whatever that looks like. If I am telling the truth, I pray that He would bolster my convictions enough that I won’t be shy about speaking His truth. If I’m wrong, I pray that He would convict me of my hypocrisies so that I can repent and be restored.