One of the lectionary readings for today, the first Sunday in Lent, is Psalm 91, which has long been a favorite of mine. It’s a beautiful, comforting poem. I love the psalmist’s use of vivid images to describe the trouble and fears we might face—flying arrows, deadly sickness, fearsome animals—and also the language of shelter and reassurance, with God as some kind of great majestic bird who gathers us under his (or her) wings.
When we were living in Napa and the boys were very young, David had to travel a lot for work, which wasn't much fun for him or me. I went through a difficult time—maybe it was post-partum depression, or a spiritual crisis, or probably both, but it was a period of several months in which I felt overwhelmed during the day and fearful at night. When the sun went down and I put the kids to bed, I felt like something dark and cold had descended on me; at night I was uneasy in our house and literally afraid to go downstairs. The verse “you shall not be afraid of any terror by night” resonated with me; I clung to this psalm as my mantra, and made it through those months (which is another story for another day). Some of you may see this as a purely psychological coping mechanism, but I believe there was—and is—something much more powerful at work.
Whether it is a bright serene Sunday
or a night in which the cold, corporeal darkness
comes and sits on my chest
like that one
Let me not forget
to seek your shelter
and stay in your shadow