Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Be still before YHWH, and wait patiently for God. - Psalm 37:1-2, 7
Reading the Bible, I sometimes remember a lesson from my college theater professor: "I like to be a good audience member. I go to plays with an open attitude, ready to be convinced." Nice. Open attitude. Receptivity.
But it doesn't always work.
"For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb." Uh oh. Second verse, and I'm already arguing with scripture: "But the wrongdoers clearly are not fading like grass or herbs! How do I trust in a psalmist who makes such pie-in-the-sky predictions which obviously have no basis in reality? How can anyone trust in a promise that makes the doers of evil into insubstantial cartoon characters, when so many wicked ones are causing so much suffering, with no end in sight?" The psalm has failed me. Or I have failed to let it in.
On a day when I still allowed the Spirit some space to move, words from Wendell Berry's "The Mad Farmer's Love Song" come back to mind:
"O when the world's at peace
and every[one] is free
then will I go down unto my love.
O and I may go down
several times before that."
Could this be the psalmist talking? Even now, while the mess and muddle seem to reign supreme, the Holy One is carrying the day. If I can choose to act on my belief that love waits and love wins—some of the wrongdoer's power begins to fade.
Grant grace to deeply believe, Holy One, that we labor for love, for equity, for shalom not in vain! Amen.
John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of Church on the Hill, UCC, in Lenox, Massachusetts.