I awoke this morning, and my mind was not well.
It was early, around 3 am. Awakened out of my sleep by a harsh nightmare, I struggled to gain my bearings. And could not; at least, I could not for several hours.
And in those hours, while I did not question what I knew to be truth, I did question the truthiness of that truth. That probably makes no sense to anyone except me. I guess what I mean by the “truthiness of truth” is this: I knew what was truth in a purely academic way, but not in a way that caused me to cling to the “truthiness” of that truth so as to make that truth the foundation of reality regardless of the condition of my mind.
In other words, I floundered.
A walk outside to breathe fresh air did not calm my thoughts. A shower and a change out of sweat-soaked pajamas did nothing to still the trembling. It was too late; I was shaken to the core of my being.
Habit ingrained over quite a few years now is the only thing that drew me to open my study materials this morning. I am grateful for habit. For routine, actually. I derive a great deal of comfort in orderliness in the midst of chaos. Not all habits are good, granted. But some are, and some are necessary. Study, which often (not always) leads to prayer is necessary to my existence and well-being.
When I am most unsettled, the Psalms are where I go. They are more than poetry; more than a collection of well-turned phrases. No, instead, they are an invitation to peer over the shoulders of people like me, who best communicate via putting ink to parchment. Who found solace in language and words. Who invite me to use their words when I cannot find words myself. And this morning, I had no words.
Psalm 116 is a Psalm I studied in-depth a few years ago. It has become a settling Psalm for me….a place that I have gone to frequently enough that some of the words written there are committed to my memory. Not intentionally, no. I wish I had the discipline to memorize scripture as a part of the habits I mentioned above. But, so far, I do not, so instead, some of the words of Psalm 116 are etched upon my mind simply because I have seen them often. Read them often. And that is where I went this morning.
Over and over and over again this morning, I typed the words of verse 4: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” And each time I reached the end of that sentence, I added that exclamation point. I already type loudly–pounding the keyboard. This morning I typed ferociously….until the words I was typing became more than just repetitive keystrokes and instead became earnest prayer. Real prayer. The typing eventually slowed, and I was ready to do work.
I studied–I worked–using additional scripture alongside recounting facts, to see the truth of verse 6; or, rather, to admit the reality of the truth of verse 6, which says:
And continues to.
He has delivered my soul from death. He has delivered my eyes from tears. He has delivered my feet from stumbling. And does. Even in the midst of the night, like the early mornings of this day. And, will He not continue? Has He not proven His faithfulness?
Only then, once I had re-established this truth in the depths of my mind, was I able to deal with my soul. Only then, was I able to address the truth located in verse 10:
Based on the truth of who I know God to be, I was then able to say to Him “I am greatly afflicted”. I was able to tell Him–to write out–the condition of my mind and my soul in the wake of that nightmare. In the wake of tremendous grief over much. Had I taken those things to Him without re-establishing the truth that He sees and knows and is who He says He is, I would have never trusted Him with the words “I am greatly afflicted.”–I would not have been able to utter them. I would not have been able to say with the Psalmist, “I believed, even when I spoke:” Others may be able to. I wish I was that way. I am not. My soul’s default setting is cynicism and hardness. O, to trust. O, my soul.
I password-protected my words and filed them away. I’ll probably never read them again. That document is closed, as it should be. I opened a new document and wrote out verses 5-7 of Psalm 116:
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
Gracious. Righteous. Merciful.
Truth. Truthiness of truth. Those words are the very essence of God.
I have been brought low. He has saved me. I will be brought low again. He will save me. One day, He will save me to see Him face-to-face. Where there are no more tears. No more pain. No more nightmares.
But, for now, I will speak to my soul. I will tell my soul to return to its rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with me.