It tends to make me squirm just a bit whenever I encounter this line from Psalm 139:
‘O LORD, you have probed me and you know me.’
I’m not big on the idea of being probed, I guess.
And for two days in a row now, we’ve been reflecting on that notion in the responsorial psalm at Mass – along with some other potentially unsettling insights from David’s prayer:
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me…
Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there…
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.
I say ‘unsettling’ because many of the lines in the Psalm ring true for me. I do feel ‘known’ by God… ‘loved’ by God. And yet there’s a part of me that’s inclined to run away from that relationship.
Why is that, I wonder?
Why do I flee?
A recent visit from our granddaughter Hannah helped me see a little bit more deeply into those questions. What I concluded is this: I’m a lot like a toddler in my relationship with the Lord.
It’s really a kick to watch Hannah do her thing out on the patio on a sunny day. She takes delight her ability to walk, to move confidently about her world. And she can be confident, because we’ve already taken some important steps to minimize the potential for danger. We’ve slathered her up in suncreen – and put on her sun-hat and shades – because she’s much too young to understand the hazards of UV rays, but not too young to get burned.
We give her a measure of freedom to move about, too – and typically, she takes it to the limit. She literally runs from our love: You get the sense she’d fly to the heavens if she could, or sail beyond the seas.
And it occurred to me as I was watching her that our presence is what makes it possible for her to run. She’s confident we’ll still be there.
Which is a lot like the God we encounter in Psalm 139, is it not?
You do your best, Lord, to protect me…without smothering me.
You know I need freedom to grow into a fully functioning, fully alive human being.
You know, too, that I’m apt to fall and skin my knee.
It’s gonna happen, no matter how close an eye You keep an eye on me.
You allow this pain to enter into my life – not so much because You want me to learn from the experience…but because You know there’s no other way to teach me
that I truly am free to spread my wings. That my freedom is not an illusion.
And You are there, too, to pick me up when I fall…and dry my tears.
Amazingly, You are willing to let me make my own way, even if it injects a measure of pain (and perhaps helplessness) into Your own role as my guardian.
It’s an extraordinary thing to be known by You.
To be trusted by You.
Thank you, Lord, for always being there – wherever I end up.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.