Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. - Psalm 39:12
By nature, I am a go-with-the-flow, live-in-the-moment, follow-the-movement-of-the-Spirit type (read: not always the world’s best planner). And yet I love the structure and discipline of Lent. It puts walking shoes on my good intentions and helps me get serious about cleaning up my act. It encourages me to give up on what isn’t working so that Christ the Healer can make me well and whole and fill me to bursting with new life and love.
But honestly? Sometimes I wonder if the whole Lenten self-examination thing doesn’t spur us (read: me) toward endless naval gazing and even greater self-centeredness.
Take Psalm 39. It all but jumps from this pathetic emotion to that baseless complaint. It’s the prayer of everyone (ahem, me again) who knows they need to confess their sins but blames others for their problems. It’s the ranting of every person (yep) who’s ever told God to get lost—and then begged for God’s help. In other words, it’s as annoying as every center-of-the-universe ego on its worst day.
But. It’s also an authentic expression of a tortured and conflicted soul, one who’s hit a serious pothole on the path to new life. And it offers us both permission to whine and instruction in holy venting.
So go ahead: Scream at life’s unfairness. Rage at injustice. Cry out in pain. Rail at God. Then let your tantrum-prayer fade into tears, into surrender, into peace.
Holy One who hears me out, may the end of my venting always bring me back to you. And thanks for Lent.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.