Reflections on Psalm 139

It’s twelve months now, since my initial sign-off with depression and anxiety. Whilst away on retreat, I decided to reflect on all that has happened in the last twelve months, to learn to live with the gifts from this incredible journey, and to start to look forward again. This happened in conversation with Psalm 139:


1 – O Lord, you have searched me and known me,

You know me inside out, all of who I am.

2 – You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

You are in my thoughts through all of time,

you can follow themes and connections,

you are under the mattress and at the bus stop and on the tractor,

even to the furthest reaches of Beloved,

you know where I am,

you know me.

3 – You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even on the floor of A&E,

you were with me, you held my hand,

through blessed black white rosary man,

you know all of who I am and where I have been.

4 – Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

Through the stutter, through the fast and the slow,

Through everything and nothing

In dot dot dot    dot    dash

In the giggle, through the trees,

You know, you understand, you hear my voice.

5 – You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

You called me to be in this place,

your servants laid their hands on me

and told me to wait, to be, here.

I struggled and I wrestled, I didn’t fit,

I trusted and I waited.

6 – Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

The gift of love, of light, of eternal I am, is beyond all words,

the peace that is beyond all understanding,

right here, now, if only I would open my eyes and accept the present,

the gift to be,

I am.

7 – Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

In the middle of the oceans, you are there,

In the bus stations in the dead of night, you are there,

In the charity shops and cafes, in the streets and on the train,

your presence is there.

8 – If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

In the Abbey, in the holly chapel, you are there, in my bed in Fordingbridge, you are there.

9 – If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

I ran to the top of the mountain in Japan, and in the fog, you were there.

I flew to the middle of the forest, up the longest river, and you were there.

I hid on the bus and under the bridge, and you were still there.

10 – Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Through the hand in the waters,

through the caped knight on the bus

through accidental Moldova

and Mississippi and Florida,

your right hand held me fast

11 – If I say, “surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night.”

As I wore my heaviest clothes and hid under my blanket coat

As I sought darkness and cold and the light hurt my eyes

when my words could not be trusted,

my voice was not heard.

12 – even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Your presence was with me

the strongest light and peace,

beyond all time, connecting all things.

Energy and flow, light and life, beyond all imagining

in the middle of the best/worst, lightest/darkest, messy, paradoxical night.

13 – For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I was knitted together in my mother’s womb,

the only womb that I could be knitted together in, was my mother’s.

The pain of my mother’s womb, was used to knit me together.

14 – I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, that I know very well.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

all of who I am, created by you,

in your image, I am a child of God.

Wonderful are your works,

exquisite is your humour.

15 – My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Through the darkness and the pain

the long nights in secret,

you saw me, knew me, loved me,

even when I could not love myself.

16 – Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

You are the God of all time, beyond all time, eternity in the present moment,

You are the energy, the breath, breathing life into all things.

Through all my days, in every moment, you whisper to me to choose life.

17 – How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

In that moment, a glimpse,

The vastness, the hugeness, the connection,

Awe and wonder, joy and peace, beyond my wildest imaginings.

18 – I try to count them – they are more than the sand; I come to the end – I am still with you.

I try to hold on to that moment, a gift, the present, your presence.

A peace that lingers, that dwells in the depths of my being.

I come to the end, again and again.

Your gift to me, a grain of sand

The whole universe, all creation

In that grain, counted by you, known by you.

A gift to me, life in death, choose life, even now,

I am with you, do not be afraid

That grain of sand, symbol of hope.

19 – O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the blood thirsty would depart from me

O how I long for the easy answer

How I want the problem to be out there

To be other, to be in another.

O God, could you not make it that simple

If you could just change x, or move y

or if I could just be more patient, or thinner,

or sleep well, or more able, or breathe better…

or… the list goes on… and on…

O God, at least the paedophiles, the rapists

the polarisation of Brexit

or the systems that isolate and damage the poor and less able

surely those you could fix for me?

20 – those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil

I want that to be someone else,

yet I know that voice is within me

I want to change the past

I want to control the future

I don’t want to meet you in this present moment.

And yet your rainbow reminds me

of the covenant between you and every living creature

Every one…

not just the ones I like,

not just the ones who are like me (there aren’t many of them!)

Every single living creature

known by you, loved by you

even the ones I find really difficult,

who I fundamentally disagree with.

Even those who have hurt me

even those who still hurt those I love

O God, this hurts

it feels easier, safer, to stay in my box

to throw stones,

to blame ‘out there’ or ‘other’

21 – Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

I do… the hate bit is easy,

I find my tribe, we feel cosy and safe,

we want others to be like us, to join us…

Yet you call me

to love the Lord my God, to love you,

with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

That’s so hard… I can try… for a moment.

And then you ask me to love my enemies, to love my neighbours, to love myself

Loving myself, accepting who I am, now

actually getting to know me, is a gift

it’s a hard, winding, unexpected road

Loving my neighbour,

actually being present to them in that moment

not fixing, or categorising

listening, being with them, hearing their story

am I willing? am I able to do that?

And loving my enemy?

am I really willing to see you, within ‘them’

22 – I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

Because that is so much easier,

to see them as other,

for the problem to be them.

23 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

You know me God, you know me before I know myself.

You know all my thoughts,

even the ones I don’t want you to know,

you know the shame, the embarrassment, the hurt and the pain,

the fear, the anger and the frustration.

You see all that I am, you know me,

and still, you love me.

24 – See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

You know there is wickedness and darkness in me,

and still, you love me.

You invite me to choose life

and even when I don’t, when the fear, the pain is too much

you love me

you breathe your life into me,

and the invitation is still there…

to choose life.

* [Scripture quotations are from] New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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