I love the psalms. I always remember loving the psalms, probably because in the church I grew up in we chanted the psalm every Sunday, and I love to chant! The tone would get stuck in my head, and my sister and I would chant back and forth to each other throughout the week… “Jenna, would you get me water?” “No, sissy, I will not!” But I think there was more to me liking the psalms than a catchy tune. As I grew older I loved reading the psalms because they were filled with emotion. One moment the writer is happy, the next moment sad. One moment praising God for all God’s glory, the next asking why there is such tribulation in life. The psalms are works of art, and artful prayer.
I now love that psalms are ways to meditate and pray. They are sacred words, God’s word that can be spoken back to God in a form of prayer. Out of all 150 of them, Psalm 139 has to be one of my favorites because something new catches me every time. This time when I read it, what stuck out was the second to last verse: “Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts.” Try me, Lord. Test me, God.
I don’t know that I would always pray to God to test me. I think I most often want to pray to God “Keep me comfortable!” “I’m happy Lord, no need to try me right now!” or “I’m being tried enough in every area of my life, please don’t try me any more.”
You better believe that when I first received my assignment to come to Alliance, I was scared. I had restless thoughts. Anxious thoughts. What was I getting myself into? Sure, I asked for an agency placement. Sure, I said I wanted to learn and grow and be stretched, especially in the area of pastoral care. But I’m more likely to pick safe over new. I’m more likely to feel confident in a church, not a medical clinic. I truly believe that God knew my heart. God knew that it was time for me to step out of the comfort zone of the Episcopal Church and into a brand new experience.
Test me, Lord. Know how nervous I am. Try me, know my anxiety, and quell it. The beginning of this psalm says it all: “Lord, you have searched me out and known me… Indeed there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it all together… Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Lord, you are always with me.
I have so profoundly felt God’s Spirit moving here, through my interactions with patients, with staff, and with Toby. While I may have been like a deer in the headlights when I first got here, God has worked in me and helped me to become a more confident pastoral counselor than I ever believed I could be. God took my restless thoughts, and made them holy. God worked through the anxiety and fear, and made it into a gift and blessing.
God is working like this in all of our lives right now. We are all stressed about something; and God knows that. God hears those anxious thoughts, those fears that we have. And God will never leave us. The last words of this psalm pray to God- “lead me in the way that is everlasting.”
As I leave here, I move into another time of transition. Graduating, being ordained, moving, starting a new job, and preparing for marriage. I think the only way I will make it through this time is to pray to God and remind myself that God know these thoughts. God is trying me- God is calling, and I am following the call as anxiety-inducing as it is. As much as I want to pray for the comfortable, the happy, the non-anxiety-producing, I know that God knows my heart. God knows that following the call means being restless, and feeling tried and tested. And this is true for all of us- following God is not always easy, happy, and calm. But we know: we can never flee from God’s presence; the Spirit is never far from us. God listens when we pray: “Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.” Amen.