A few weeks ago I sat on a concrete roof in the early Sunday morning Peruvian sun and turned to the psalms. The ten of us in that circle were halfway through a three week trip and my co-leader and I wanted to lead the students somewhere intentional, somewhere that would help them think through and articulate where they had been and where they were going. And so we turned to the psalms, rich in their realness, testimony, and tension. Focusing in on thanksgiving and supplication, I read out loud portion of psalm after psalm, one after another, letting the language and the themes roll over us and resonate deeply: testimonies of the character of the Lord and what He had done and pleas for Him to hear and act again, sometimes uttered in the same breath of the same verse.
We then challenged the students to write their own psalm, in their own particular mode of expression. Tell what the Lord has done, we encouraged them, both in your life as a whole, and how you have specifically seen Him this trip. And then ask Him for what you long to see Him do, both in our remaining days together and the years to come. We spread out across the rooftop and in rooms below, communing in shared silence for the next hour or so. Some students wrote in prose, as a letter or a prayer. Others drew an image, or wrote a song, and then later, we shared them, and it was a gift.
As I sat in my own little corner of the roof, I found myself once again in Psalm 84. For several years now, the Lord has been pressing those words deep into me, using them to challenge and strengthen and break and renew and re-orient, different lessons for different seasons. I had shared earlier in the trip the incredible imagery of the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem digging pits in the desert and waiting for the rain, to be sustained again for the next stage of their journey, and now once again the Lord was returning me to a new lesson of the desert. A new appreciation, perhaps. A new understanding of what contentment looks like with rain and without it, and the love which sustains it.
And suddenly that morning tied into months of learning and growing in the seamless way only the Lord can. And suddenly my thankfulness for the Lord’s faithful working had grown, as had my deep-set supplication for it to continue. So often the Lord’s most intimate gifts are not changes in any outward circumstance, but instead a righting of our understanding of His character within it. A looking to who He is and what He has done, for the courage to ask, and to wait, for what He has yet to do. How beautiful is that tension, and the dependence it requires.
O God, how bold it is to say,
You are my Father, even though you dwell in heaven,
You are my Husband, even when I am alone,
You are my Provider, even as I go without,
You are my Portion, even while I long,
You are Good, even when I cannot see.
Your love has never failed,
nor will it ever waiver,
nor can I ever fall from it,
nor does it ever lack.
And who I am is in that love,
It created me, it saved me, it encompasses me, it upholds me, it defines me.
I do not deserve the pools of blessing,
nor the desert of longing,
though I have had both in abundance,
and come to see
that I drink dry the strength of the rain of Your presence
not to carry me through the desert as quickly as possible
but to carry with me into the desert,
and know that sand and brush and unrelenting sun
still drip with the abundance of your presence.
There in the desert, I am loved for nothing I bring,
and love You for nothing You give.
I need nothing but Your grace,
I offer nothing but brokenness,
And long for nothing but to help other pilgrims
know the hope of rain.
Father, help me to remember: I have been given much.
And not only the pools of strength,
but the much of the desert:
the dependence it demands,
the self it blows away,
the silence that requires my stillness,
the beauty that requires my attentiveness,
the gifts that require my praise.
And so much is given, and much is required.
May I be obedient to dig,
in joy or in sorrow,
in fullness or in longing,
in strength or in weakness,
but always in grace,
that by faithfulness my life may display
is both the promise and the presence of Your rain.