Thank God for the Psalms. In this book, you can find a voice for every human emotion. Praise, prayer, fear, anger, thanksgiving, and sorrow fill this ancient record. In Psalm 86, the author proclaims “I will praise you oh God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever!” Yet in Psalm 22 the lament of “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” is equally proclaimed. And we humans resonate with this strange brew of elation and heartbreak. As the singer/songwriter Kathy Troccoli writes “life can be so good – life can be so hard.”
I find myself firmly located in the Psalms this week. The tragic, sorrowful attack in Las Vegas on Sunday night weighs heavily in our hearts and lives. Senseless, heart-rending, angering, grievous – the words don’t capture the depth of the sadness and rage that we feel. “My God my God why have you forsaken us” seems an appropriate response. And at the same time, we are approaching this weekend of Thanksgiving. A time to offer gratitude and thanks for all the gifts we enjoy. A time that we sing together “oh give thanks unto the Lord for God is good” (Psalm 136). A typically happy time. How in the world can we enter this Thanksgiving season in the midst of a swirl of seemingly divergent emotions?
The Daily Examen is a spiritual practice that I am incorporating more and more into my life. The Examen was created by Ignatius of Loyola as a way to discern and recognize God’s presence in the events of our day. Typically practiced in the mid-day as well as the evening, the Examen consists of the following movements:
- Become aware of God’s presence
- Review the day with gratitude
- Reflect on your day
- Choose one part of your day and pray from it
- Look toward tomorrow with hope
What I am drawn to in particular is the 4th movement: choose one part of your day from which to pray. This is an invitation to settle into a particular event, emotion, conversation, or attitude in the day and just be there. I’m a generally “good times” type of guy. My tendency is to accentuate the positive and ignore everything else. Ignore the anger I feel over yet another shooting in my home country. Ignore the frustration around the rising tide of violence in our world. But the Examen gives us permission to experience the presence of God in ALL the emotions of our lives, in ALL the seasons of our living, not just the good experiences and happy emotions. Even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God’s presence is there. In every emotion of anger, frustration, and despair and in every emotion of joy, happiness, and delight – God’s Presence equally abides in it all. We can bring our multi-emotional lives to God and trust in the assurance that God is here.
The Psalms bless the full gamut of human emotion. One emotion is not better or more acceptable than the other. And this Thanksgiving season, I invite us as well to bring our whole selves to God – including our mixed up, contradictory emotions – with gratitude trusting that our entire life – the joys and the sorrows – is fully held in the love of God through Jesus Christ.