The Psalms: A Reentry Handbook

walkway to mosque

The Psalms: A Reentry Handbook by Robynn

I remember hanging suspended upside down inside a squished cab of a pick up truck alongside the road. The ambulance arrived and 2 paramedics stuck their heads in from either side of the cab. They told us they would have us out in no time, they inquired as to how we were doing and then they asked if there was anyone they could call for us. We grimaced and glanced at each other. Ethel had grown up in Brazil, Denise’s parents were in Nigeria and mine remained obliviously out of reach in Pakistan. There was no one to call.

The summer before I had watched, with that horrible sinking feeling, my parents board the plane to return to Pakistan. I was of age. I had crossed that dreaded line that meant that I no longer went with them. I was stuck in Canada, far from them, far from my childhood, far from everything I had ever known. I was alone.

It wasn’t entirely true. I wasn’t technically alone. My parents had figured out a plan for that first summer without them. I had people to stay with, a church to attend and I knew where I would be going once summer was over. I had relatives that loved me. There were plenty of well-meaning people to look out for me and yet deep inside there was a place that shook with the reality that I was really on my own.

I cried a lot that summer. I grieved adulthood thrust upon me. I ached for my parents and the stability they brought. I missed Pakistan and the familiar, my boarding school and all my chums. My loneliness was so profound it nearly swallowed me whole. It was thick and tangible.

During this time Jesus reminded me again of the Psalms.  David often was separated from his family, his friends, his safety, his childhood, his familiar. He was often on the run, living out of a suitcase: a transient, a wanderer (a tck?). He was no stranger to separation and grief.  Many of his journal entries reflect that. He wrote things like: “Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress and the Lord hears my voice”(Ps 54:16), “You keep track of all my sorrows” (Ps 56:8), “Come with great power, O God and rescue me!…(Ps 54:1) “for you have seen my troubles and you care about the anguish of my soul” (Ps 31:7).

In the midst of David’s pain and uncertainty he knew that God was his fortress and his protector, his helper.  He understood that God loved him deeply and that God was with him in the midst of all the sadness. “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Thou they stumble, they will never fall for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Ps 37:23). ”Unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord” (Ps 32:10). I found comfort and camaraderie in reading David’s poems, his songs, his journal. He seemed to understand. He seemed confident that God would be with me too. It became my life line. During those first 2 years back I read nothing from scripture except the Psalms! David mentored me through reentry. He taught me how to depend on God in the midst of suffering and separation.

One day I was driving my little car across the Canadian prairie. Suddenly and for no apparent reason (I mean I wasn’t out of gas and there did appear to be oil in the car!) it quit! I had no idea what to do. I pulled to the side of the road and thought about my dad. My dad would know what to do! My dad had probably told me what to do at some point but I couldn’t remember what that was. And to complicate what always seemed already like a complicated life, my dad was off in Pakistan! I opened the hood and stood over it. The tears started running down my face. I felt the separation that was such a reality. And then I did what my mentor David taught me to do: I cried out to God. God if you are the Good Shepherd –the Expert on Sheep, and the Great Physician – the Expert on me…surely you know something about cars. Will you please come to my rescue? Will you please fix this stupid car?? I closed the hood, got back in behind the steering wheel and turned the key. It worked! God had fixed my car. God had been my Heavenly Mechanic, my Nearby Holy Dad. He had stepped in and helped me.

The reality of His nearness waxed and waned during those early years. Often God through His tender Spirit eased the pain of the separation and He was my helper! Other times it was still so very hard and I missed my parents and their expertise on living very keenly.

“O Lord you alone are my hope. I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood. Yes, you have been with me… My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection…. O God don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me… I will keep on hoping for your help. I will praise you more and more…. O God you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do…. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me…”Ps 71: 5-18

(Previously published in Traveling without Baggage—a Christar Publication)

4 thoughts on “The Psalms: A Reentry Handbook

  1. I too love the Psalms. Psalm 119:49-50…. my lifeline when I was in secondary school… Psalm 121, my Help — the first Psalm I memorised in it’s entirety…. and pulled out more times than I can remember… then when my grandfather passed, we found it was highlighted in his Bible which made me love it even more. In that church in Cornwall it was read at his funeral. Psalm 3:3, lifted in song whilst I was undergoing surgery and terrified because being awake for a 5 hour wrist surgery in S. Korea is, well…. terrifying…but most of all, I think Psalm 13 sums everything up for me. Thanks for this post!

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  2. Dear Robynn – I always read the Psalms when we are traveling. And I turn to them almost exclusively in any crisis. When we returned from Pakistan in 1989, Ralph was so sick, 3 major surgeries in 3 different hospitals from Chicago to Mass, and I thought our retirement was finished before we even got started. We had no home ready to move in to, thank God for our wonderful scattered family. In each place the Lord had already placed someone from our family. For 3 months I read nothing but the Psalms and the Daily Light. Nothing seems to speak to our needs in the really hard times more than David and his Psalms. Thank you for this reminder today, 5 degrees F, so cold, but the sun is shining in Rochester.

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