Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Post: Elizabeth McAlister--Psalm 6

I'm offering a new writing workshop, Writing the Psalms, which starts March 14th and runs for three weeks. More about the course can be found by clicking here.

Elizabeth McAlister read about my new workshop and was willing to share her story about Psalm 6 with us here. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Sometimes I feel like screaming. I’m not 100% sure why, but I’m certain it has to do with grief. It feels odd because, though I feel like screaming, my mood is what I would consider good. Maybe the good mood is a thin mask and my true emotions are fighting to come out? Maybe it’s my subconscious wanting to scream because, while I’m outwardly showing relative happiness and productivity, IT KNOWS THE TRUTH. But yeah, some of those psalms about wailing … my heart, my soul. Deep inside, I can feel it trying to come out. I can feel the tears wanting to flow. All this would happen if I let it. If I let it. No, I’m not bottling it in. Trust me, there. The hole in my chest that appeared when Keith died varies in size from day to day and, sometimes, moment to moment. Some days it’s a huge gaping hole. Some days it’s a pin-hole. Most days it’s somewhere in between.

Then I found Psalm 6. Most of it is very appropriate. Verses 2-7a. I don’t believe God’s angry at me, as in verse 1. I also don’t believe enemies are out to get me, as in verses 7b-10. I wish I could feel the confidence of verse 9, though. “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” He didn’t hear my plea or answer my prayer the night I asked Him to please not take my baby. A dear friend lovingly and boldly argued that, yes, He did hear my plea and, yes, He did answer my prayer. He just didn’t answer it the way I wanted Him to. And He didn’t TAKE my baby.

1 O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage.
2 Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?
4 Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love.
5 For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave?
6 I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.
7 My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.
8 Go away, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.
10 May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly turn back in shame.
(New Living Translation)

The Psalms have been wonderful for me through this. Early on, we met with our pastor and I told him that I was so angry at the time, I didn’t want to pray. I knew I needed to, but I was too mad at God. Our pastor suggested reading through the Psalms and letting them be my prayers until I could pray again. Psalm 6 has been a really good one. “Have compassion on me for I am weak… my bones are in agony, God! My heart hurts – there’s a gaping hole where my son should be. How long will it be before I feel “normal” again? Will I ever feel normal again or is this my new normal? God, rescue me from this pain. I’m tired of crying at the slightest of triggers. I’m tired of trying to drive home while my tears blur the traffic around me. I’m tired of coming home with red-rimmed eyes and having my 8 year old daughter look at me and ask, ‘Are you missing my bubby?’”

I said earlier that God didn’t hear my plea the night Keith died. I know that’s not true. The pouty child inside me – the one who didn’t want to give up her most precious possession – doesn’t like to hear me say that. I can imagine her stomping her feet and screaming, “He didn’t hear me! He DID NOT!” I can also hear the gentle, parental response, “Yes, sweetheart, I did,” as I remember all that He did in the midst of it all. A neighbor who’s a NICU nurse, came running – we knew for sure someone in the ambulance was honestly trying their hardest to save him. Church friends crowding the ER, the ones who stayed with us, the ones who went to our house to tuck baby items away until we could handle them again, the one who paid for us to stay in a hotel that night, the ones who came and loved on us – who still love on us. The biggest one? My husband & I excused ourselves to finally decide on burial or cremation. As soon as we were in agreement on burial, his phone rang. A church member had a plot they wanted to give us. I later learned that it and the plot next to it had been bought several years ago. One spouse, though, didn’t want it and to this day, insists on cremation. When they heard about our loss, they gave it to us. It was bought YEARS ago even though one didn’t want it. In that instant, they knew why they had bought it anyway. God knew it would be needed before we even knew it existed.

He has heard my weeping; He has heard my plea; and He is answering my prayers for wholeness and peace. I still miss by sweet little baby boy. I still feel that hole in my chest. I still miss the feel of him in my arms, his hair on my lips as I kiss his head. BUT, I know He has a plan and, somehow, someway, this too will work for good.
~ Elizabeth McAlister

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