"I am like a little owl of the waste places.
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
I eat ashes like bread, because of your indignation and anger, O God;
for you have thrown me aside." - Psalm 102:6-10
I know that the angry God of this psalm is unwelcome. We want to reassure the sufferer: God isn't mad at you! Your pain isn't God's doing or God's will.
But before anyone rushes to condemn the psalmist's theology, take a moment to listen to him. Let's not tell him who God really is or how God really operates. Let's first feel his heartache and absorb the full brunt of the poignant images in which he casts his pain.
That's what I'm doing now. And as I listen, I recall a time I suffered a depression so excruciating it could only be God afflicting me.
And a time I sinned so grievously I waited for God to discard me like trash.
And a time I was so lonely, so outside the circle, I knew even God wanted nothing to do with me.
When I needed to make sense of my suffering, God was the one I could safely blame, the one I could saddle with my grief and bewilderment. Maybe that was wrong, but God took it, took it without flinching, until I got better, until I was converted, until love's circle opened to let me in.
I'm glad I don't believe it's God's fault any more. But if anyone had tried to correct the theology that was working for me then, bad as I know it was, I might still be adrift.
God is so much bigger than our theologies, good and bad. God is greater than our hearts.
Patient One, you are not to blame, but thank you for lending yourself to fumbling attempts to make sense and meaning. Thank you for being greater than our hearts.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.