A Personal Story of Disorientation
I want to share a little of my story this morning. While at seminary, my local church affirmed my call and the leaders of the church in a formal setting affirmed my call. They would ask me different questions regarding ministry. One of their questions regarded marriage and ministry. And I chuckled on the inside at this question, at that time I was single and Randy and I had just seen each other for the second time (I won’t say it was a second date, because I refused to call our first luncheon meeting a date!) But at this second meeting, I had already broached the subject to check out his views of women in ministry, because if he wasn’t fully acceptant of the idea there was no need for us to have a third meeting. God was first in my life and I wouldn’t let anyone come before Him.
It was difficult for us (for me) to find a ministry position in our church. There were few women ministers in our church. God finally opened a door for us to co-pastor a small struggling church just outside of Erie. We, fresh out of seminiary, went there confident that God was going to turn the situation around. But God didn’t. There were just a handful of members with a building debt. We were there about 11/2 years and they decided to close the church.
We were at a point of disorientation:
~We were personally financially in debt.
~We felt God was moving us from our denomination to another.
~Randy and I moved in with my mother. My mother got married while we were there.
~We were in a whirlwind. Our young married lives, our ministry turned upside down.
We visited many different churches. We visited with denominational leaders. We read up on denomination after denomination. We went to speak at different churches. We talked about planting a church in Omaha. We considered a church in the bayous of Louisiana. After about a 11/2 years we were appointed on a weekly basis to the Royer UMC outside of Williamsburg, by Tom Irvin. He appointed us before we ever officially committed to the UMC. It was that fall that we joined the church. We wanted to be sure that was were God was leading us. (If we would have been more familiar with UMC polity, we may not have waited because UMC policy makes sure that your sure and that they’re sure and everybody’s sure. And I say that because we had to wait two years after becoming members to begin the ordination process with the UMC.)
Now there is one thing that kept Randy and I going in the midst of this upheaval in our lives: we were sure of our call. We were sure that God wanted us in local church pastoral ministry. We were sure in our hearts and we had that confirmed time and time again by the body of Christ, by our pastors and church leaders.
That is one instance; one example of the type of disorientation we can experience in life. When things just don’t come together easily. The pieces just don’t fit. And we are left to grapple with them. Sometimes we wonder what God is up to. Sometimes when we don’t feel like God is giving us any direction, we try to figure things out ourselves. Sometimes we feel like there is an enemy triumphing in our lives.
Psalm 13: A Psalm of Disorientation
Psalms of Disorientation follow a typical form which is divided into two major parts, plea and praise. Psalm 13 follows this form closely.
And these are three complaints that the Psalmist makes (in relation to God, self, and enemy). He the psalmist is very abrupt and pointed. He doesn’t take time to mellow his words. He doesn’t take time to reason. His words are from the gut (gut feelings).
He first accuses God of not looking at him; not seeing him; his face is turned from him. (OT if God sees, God takes action.) In this kind of psalm is common for the psalmist to fix the blame on God – you’re not doing what you are supposed to do God. You’re not taking care of me like you said you would. We covenanted together, and you’re not holding up your end of this relationship.
He then says he wrestles with his own thoughts. There is sorrow, pain, anguish, he’s confused and miserable – every day!
And he has some enemy that remains unnamed, that is triumphing over him.
There is no way of coping unless God acts.
These complaints are grounded in a relationship with God-a relationship that can withstand such honesty. A relationship that existed before this moment.
Verses 1-2 the psalmist pent up rage is released. And the rage is released toward one person, God. God is the only one being addressed.
This psalm teaches us it is okay to tell God how we feel. He can handle our emotions. He already knows how we feel. In the telling there is release. It is in the telling, that God can begin the healing.
I will die
Enemy will say, “I have overcome.”
Foes will rejoice. – The psalmist is God’s partner, so if the partner is overcome; if foes rejoice over the partner, they do so to God.
Sometimes the motivation is bargaining. (if you do this I’ll do that.)
The grand pause. The psalmist waits. We wait. There is no place to go. We wait for God’s response.
Assurance of being heard
3 Statements of Trust
My heart rejoices
I will sing (vow of payment)
3 References to God
your unfailing love
to the Lord
During the waiting there is a change that takes place and we don’t know what caused that change. When the psalmist speaks, he is a different person. He is on his way to a new orientation. Remember we said that orientation is when we have our bearings straight. Things are as they are meant to be. They are stable. The psalmist is on his way to a new orientation, because he will have been changed by this experience. Because it is in these dark times of waiting that somehow we are changed. Our trust is deepened. Our relationship with God grows. Our praise becomes rooted in that ongoing relationship.
These closing scriptures are mixed in verb tense, for the psalmist is not yet out of this dark place. But he has the assurance that God will bring him out. He promises to sing in the future, because “God has been good to me.” He has been faithful in the past; so I believe he will be faithful to me in the present; therefore, I will sing in the future.
We don’t know how long it took the Psalmist to progress through these steps. Many of us may be at different places along this psalm. We may be at the point of weariness, where we need to cry out to God for help. We may be in a place of waiting. We may be in the midst of trouble, standing confident, knowing that God is going to act in our situation. Wherever you are today, pray to God, make your requests known to God. And if you are in need of prayer, if you find yourself crying out "How long?" come for prayer today, so that the body may help carry you through this difficult time.