I was recently asked to write a meditation on Psalm 57. As today is the beginning of Holy Week, I am sharing my thoughts on this powerful passage:
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, for I have taken refuge in you; * in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until this time of trouble has gone by. 2 I will call upon you, O Most High God, * you who maintain my cause. 3 You will send from heaven and save me; you will confound those who trample upon me; * you will send forth your love and your faithfulness. 4 I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people; * their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongue a sharp sword. 5 They have laid a net for my feet, and I am bowed low; * they have dug a pit before me, but have fallen into it themselves. 6 Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, * and your glory over all the earth. 7 My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; * I will sing and make melody. 8 Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; * I myself will waken the dawn. 9 I will confess you among the peoples, O God; * I will sing praise to you among the nations. 10 For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, * and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. 11 Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, * and your glory over all the earth.
I am neurodivergent–“different.” Though I see my disabilities as a gift, others don’t always agree, and it has caused me a great deal of pain. As I read this psalm, I think of three powerful images that I have held in my heart since I first began reading the Bible and attending Seminary in 2013:
Verse 4 of this psalm, “I lie in the midst of lions that devour the people,” reminds me of the quote carved into the wall of the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University, where I went to seminary. As a martyr facing certain death, St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “I am God’s wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” This gives me the courage it takes to live the life that God asks of me.
When I am consumed by the paralytic emotions that go with being human in the face of metaphorical lions, I imagine myself cradled safely beneath the wings of God as in verse 1 of this psalm: “In the shadow of your wings will I take refuge until this time of trouble has gone by.”
Countless times, I have held the above two images in tension with one another, asking God to show me the path that God wants me to follow. I pray every day: “Speak God, thy humble servant is listening.” – Samuel 1:3
The dance of these three images/prayers has led me through the desert many times over. Each time I wondered if I would make it, and each time I learned that the seemingly impossible is ultimately reconciled in the great Mystery that is God.
Perhaps my most powerful experience was the concussion that changed my life forever; it turned me into a theological artist “acquired savant” overnight. There are only a hundred or so known acquired savants in the world. I didn’t grasp what had happened to me until the worldwide Savant Expert answered my email and told me that I was indeed among the rare few. At first I was scared to tell anyone, lest they think I was bragging. Then I was afraid that I would be judged, or pitied, or thought to be stupid.
It has been nearly ten years since my concussion, and I have learned that people will think what they think. I have learned to let them enjoy my art without taking it as a judgment on who I am.
I am neurodivergent, a single mom, living with several chronic illnesses, along with an invisible disability. People can be supportive, and people can be cruel. Sometimes people are both in the same day. I am learning to respond as lovingly as I can in both scenarios. The only way I can do that is if I have my heart set on God.
St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh God”–taking refuge beneath the wings of God and meditating daily on the unseen hand of Mystery in my life. As I paint every day, currently meditating on angels, I allow my mind to wander and notice the healing fractals of life.
Being willing to face the metaphorical lions gives me the courage to LIVE life faithfully, even if I am abandoned or judged. There are times I want to argue and fight; however, pressing the pause button until that big desire passes allows me the time to respond with LOVE (and strength). As I hold the tension between the safety of God and the danger of the human world, I notice that I am standing in a precarious place of faith–a “bright abyss” as described by Christian Whyman. I am often so stunned every time I grasp this theological notion that I tuck myself gently back under God’s wings… and I take comfort.
Original Art by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art
Available for Purchase