When I first began this blog, I was making a Benedictinian effort to spend my days meditating on the Psalms. When St. Benedict wrote his rule, he required that all living it out with him would chant/pray the entire book of Psalms every week. (In case you haven’t checked lately, communally praying through the book of Psalms in one week is a major undertaking).
Modern Benedictines are content to pray through the book once every two weeks (which is still quite a feat, in my humble opinion). When I first took up the challenge of attempting to follow The Rule of St. Benedict, my goal was to read and meditate on five Psalms a day: once in the early morning, once mid-morning, once at lunch, once during August’s naptime, and once before bed. (That, my friends, was also a major undertaking that didn’t survive any sort of stress in my life, especially not morning sickness. My praying/meditating life has never recovered.)
So, after an incredible two days away with my church this past weekend, hearing some beautiful and challenging teaching on prayer (I promise to share more soon!), I was inspired to take up my Psalm habit once more, but more graciously. That means I’m giving myself over to one Psalm a day. And I’m doing it in community, with the lovely ladies I meet with every Sunday night.
What has drawn me for the past few years to the Benedictine Psalm routine is the idea that because the Psalms are such a part of monks’ lives, they live the words. The Psalms aren’t clean and tidy. They are desperate, passionate, doubtful, fretful, worshipful, hopeful, angry, happy, and everything in between. In connecting to them, my faith and my prayer life is hopefully becoming more authentic.
Yesterday, I read the 16th Psalm and found myself stuck in the first line of the first verse: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (English Standard Version). Preserve is quite a word, right? I immediately thought of preserved fruits, canned tomatoes, the preserving of dead bodies, the preserving qualities of salt: to protect, to maintain. And then I thought about where I am. My due date is three weeks from tomorrow. I’m a nervous wreck because I know what’s coming.
So what does it mean for me to join with King David and beg God to “preserve” me because God is my refuge? Am I asking him to keep me fresh? Am I asking to simply keep me alive? Can someone preserved still grow?
The Psalm goes on: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (verses 5-6). My immediate inheritance is currently stretching his legs at the top of my protruding middle, his butt pushing to my right, his toes scraping the insides of my left. I love that the Lord is the cup I drink. He is good. My inheritance is also good. And the lines have already fallen for me. Now I ask for preservation, for a refuge in the midst of the perilous storm I’m walking into.
And I’m hoping I’ll go with a glad heart, a rejoicing whole being ( verse 9). That would be very good.