“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy…Restore our fortunes, O God, like the water courses in the Negev.” (Psalm 126)
I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I’ll say it again. The Psalms of Ascent (120-134) are the real deal. Shorter and profoundly earthy, these songs carry in them the experienced memories and present sorrows of Israel. These are the songs that were sung on the road up to Jerusalem when yearly festivals were at hand.
Psalm 126, created after the exile, remembers the joy of coming home, coming back to life — it’s joy and laughter, like the ending to a good dream. And the power of remembering God’s faithfulness to bring them home, to bring them through their distress, invites them to dream still, even as they sing in their present moment, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord”… here, and now.
I’ve found it to be true that just about every present moment of life’s journey carries distress and begs for God’s presence which heals, restores, renews, gives life. LIFE’S JOURNEY IS PAINFUL AND HARD! and wonderful too, wonderful too. More often than not it seems in the present moment that God’s presence is elusive, God’s activity distant. Here we cling for life to God’s promise to be faithful and lead us through, lead us back to home, whatever home is.
When I look back, I can trace God’s faithful leading and provision. Bonnie and I note together how we’ve been companioned by God’s faithful presence. It seems much harder to sense God’s presence here and now, in life’s present moments. This is why our memories of who God is and what God has done comfort us most profoundly in whatever is our present crisis.
We are invited to dream in our distress, dream about moments to come when we can embrace again, and gather freely, when laughter and joy will ride high on the sanctuary ceiling yet again. Keep the faith! remember that your future along with mine is in God’s hands. What is for us now will most surely pass, and the grief we carry from it will form us into a community of more depth and understanding, more love and gratitude.
So go ahead, dream in your distress, friend, for “those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”