Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Psalms 142:4-5 (NIV)
My greatest fear growing up was that my parents would get divorced. I had neighborhood friends all around my block, and every one of their parents seemed on the brink of splitting. They would argue right in front of me, something totally foreign to me. I had a habit of running up to my friend David’s house right after school in order to play his Playstation. Metal Gear Solid had just come out, and since I had a Nintendo 64, the only way I could play would be at his house. I loved his house, because his mom stocked Snickers bars in the pantry – my mother would never do that. Anyway, one day I was beating Psycho Mantis with a Snickers hanging half out of my mouth when David’s mom walked in and just shut the game off. She told me to go home immediately. Then, David’s dad walked in and called her a bitch. Then she yelled something about his job – maybe he had lost it. Then his dad looked at me and said, I think she told you to go home. I grabbed my bag, shoved the latter half of the candy bar in my pocket, and shuffled quickly home.
My parents never acted this way – never argued at each other in public, or even in front of us. You know that whole strategy of asking the one parent for something when the other had already said “no?” Yeah, that never worked on them, because they were annoyingly always on the same page. Even if they disagreed on how to proceed, they discussed it in private and then presented the plan to us. The process was completely hidden from us.
Even so, I worried about the state of their relationship. I had an image in my head of marriage, which was “perfect unity” from God. At a young age, I assumed that the best married couples were those that never fought or disagreed, because those marriages were from God. So even though my parents disagreed so rarely, they still disagreed sometimes, and to me, that made them a candidate for divorce. This was my misconception to have as an anxious little boy.
And obviously, my ideas of marriage were wrong. The happiest and most hard-working couples fight – some say that the fighting is a sign of health in a marriage. Disagreement and compromise build character and strength. With all this talk about “marriage equality” for LGBT couples in the public, it has been fascinating for me to read about how the Bible characterizes marriage. So far, it has been a loveless affair (and if couples did love each other, like Abraham and Sarah, it was incidental). Marriage was a command for all young men and women and often involved an agreement between fathers or the trade of land.
This is obviously not the case with modern marriage. We get married when we love someone else and decide of our own free will to partner with that person. And the overwhelming thought I had while reading the 150 chapters of Psalms was, wow, this is all about marriage. No, not man-to-woman marriage, but rather, our marriage to God.
The emotions run the gamut in this book, but the subject remains constant. Every writer of Psalms discusses – whether though praise or questioning – their relationship with God. Some question their commitment to Him. Others thank Him for His love. The same people will then worry about their safety in times of need, because to them, God is the independent partner in the relationship, one who could do just fine without their presence. But they are in deep need, asking for the marriage in order to survive in a chaotic world. They need God much more than He needs them.
And this is why there are so many contradictions within the book. Some chapters claim that God will give spoils to those for following Him while others say that He challenges the faithful without regard to their behavior. Some tell us to love everyone while others commend those who hate their enemies. There is no consensus.
And I think that is because there is not one kind of marriage. It is like me as a child, thinking that my parents would divorce because they argued sometimes. I was convinced that the only kind of marriage was the one with full love where no disagreements ever took place.
Psalms has convinced me of the goodness of faith. When success or despair happen upon us, it is most healthy to look to the heavens and say, “I have little control, so this is not of me.” This is healthy because of the humility that must be present to have such a thought. The truth is that none of us have much control over our lives, and the thought that we do often leads to anxiety and hopelessness.
Psalms is schizophrenic in its description of God – because our emotions and circumstances force us to have different views of Him.
And I think that is A-OK. Your ideal is not my ideal, and neither is God’s ideal. So just live and look to the heavens and remember – we don’t have much control.