My friend and co-laborer Jonny Schult preached for me yesterday at State Street. He brought up the fact that the psalmists in the bible speak of seasons of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. This seems to be the rhythm of life that the psalmists affirm. It's the rhythm of life that I affirm as well.
Walter Brueggemann has been tremendously helpful to me over the years to understand the psalmist's mind and heart. In turn, as I've been re-reading the Message of the Psalms over the last few days, I have been blessed once again by his words. Brueggemann says this about the seasons of disorientation that communities of faith and people go through.
"The point to be urged here is this: The use of these "psalms of darkness" may be judged by the world to be acts of unfaith and failure, but for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith, albeit a transformed faith. It is an act of bold faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way. On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God. Thus these psalms make the important connection: everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life."
He continues a bit later:
"It is no wonder that the church has intuitively avoided these psalms. They lead us into dangerous acknowledgment of how life really is. They lead us into the presence of God where everything is not polite and civil. They cause us to think unthinkable thoughts and utter unutterable words. Perhaps worst, they lead us away from the comfortable religious claims of "modernity" in which everything is managed and controlled. In our modern experience, but probably also in every successful and affluent culture, it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness. Very much a "religion of orientation" operates on that basis. But our honest experience, both personal and public, attests to the resilience of the darkness, in spite of us. The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life comes nowhere else."
I am learning to embrace this cancer as my pathway to new life. It won't be fun. As a matter of fact, it's probably going to seem more like death than life. But, I trust that it is through these difficult seasons that my mind and spirit (and body) will be refined into something new. Perhaps a bit more loving, caring, peaceful, patient, and Christ-like than before. My life will never return to the time that I didn't have cancer. We should never make the mistake that our lives can ever be the same post-tragedy. They simply cannot. However, as a statement of utter obedience, like the psalmists, we will bring to words our hurt, our pain, and our faith. We will trust that God has not only heard these words in the past, but knows that a faithful community brings them forth today.
Our church community will be stronger in the end. We, too, will be coming to a season of new orientation communally. I trust that God will bring us to a better place and remind us of those places we've traveled in the past. It is our sacred memory that will allow the dark to not seem so shadowy in the future.
I highly recommend reading Walter Brueggemann's "The Message of the Psalms." If you are going through a season of disorientation, rest in the witness of the community of Israel and the God that walked with them in the good and bad.