By Alicia Vela Anderson
Lectionary reading for 3/22/2022: Psalm 39; Ezekiel 17:1-10; Romans 2:12-16
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 39:1-5
Psalm 39:1-5 CEB
I promised I would watch my steps
so as not to sin with my tongue;
promised to keep my mouth shut
as long as the wicked were in my presence.
So I was completely quiet, silent.
I kept my peace, but it did no good.
My pain got worse.
My heart got hot inside me;
while stewing over it, the fire burned.
Then I spoke out with my tongue:
“Let me know my end, Lord.
How many days do I have left?
I want to know how brief my time is.”
You’ve made my days so short;
my lifetime is like nothing in your eyes.
Yes, a human life is nothing but a puff of air!
When I read through the stories of the Gospels and the interactions that Jesus had with people, I regularly wonder how He kept himself from snapping back at his adversaries. His authority was constantly questioned, He was mocked, and He was challenged on a regular basis, even with His disciples. I read these stories and I marvel at His patience and the goodness deep inside of Him.
And of course, Jesus was perfect. His being fully human as well as fully God probably meant He felt the human reactions that we often feel in those types of moments but that His goodness kept Him from reacting negatively. His consistent life of prayer and time with God kept Him grounded and kind. He modeled this kind patience in a way that feels unattainable to me sometimes.
I deeply connect with the words of this Psalm. Especially over that last couple of years as we have seen white supremacy, patriarchy, and sin within the Evangelical institutions run rampant. When I was faced with someone who opposed me or my dignity or the dignity of other image bearers, I turned to the wisdom of, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” I thought that my silence meant that I had found the elusive peace, but rather it was simply self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit, but not the one I was looking for.
In my quiet, when I could swallow the pain of the world around me, it simply burned deeper and longer. The shalom of God was still distant, the inner turmoil and turbulence was ever present. The thing that finally could resolve it for me was exactly what the Psalmist points out in verse 5 - “my lifetime is like nothing in your eyes. Yes, a human life is nothing but a puff of air!”
Part of the journey of Lent is wrestling with our own mortality, the briefness of life in comparison to the eternal nature of the Kingdom of God. I believe that this is the way Jesus kept perspective during his short time on Earth. He knew that everything evil would run its course and that everything Good would prevail. Remembering these things helped me to find my people here on earth - fellow Kingdom dwellers who are more focused on breathing in the life of the Spirit than the temporary joy that earthly power brings.
This shift within me is what brings peace. The reminder that my role here is to be a Kingdom dweller, to breathe in the Holy Spirit deeply, to speak truth when I open my mouth, and to honor and love every person I come in contact with.
Throughout your day, take notice of the moments where you are swallowing the evil of the world around you. Instead of pushing down those feelings of anger, injustice, fear, or bitterness, try to replace them with the eternal peace of the Holy Spirit. The below breath prayer may help you name it and claim it.
Use this breath prayer to help you remember where true Shalom comes from, inhale the presence of the Holy Spirit and exhale what you are trying to get rid of.
Inhale: Holy Spirit, come
Exhale: Anger, leave
About the Author
Alicia is a Colorado native who found her heart home in MN. She’s passionate about helping young people see God at work in their lives and in the world around them. She spends her days teaching Middle School Bible in the Twin Cities. You can find her at aliciavela.com or on social media as @aliciavelaanderson