From the highest rung to lowest depths
Psalm 139: 1-12 (NRSVA)
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
I have been struck by all the revelations about figures from my childhood — once the beating heart of the public — being brought low by the reality of the lives they lived off camera. We somehow conflate successful people with an image we build up from outside but the truth is that we don’t know what’s really going on with those we look up to or occupy a position of power in our lives. If we look at them with something approaching envy — I’d be careful. Things are often not as they seem and to “be” somebody or understand them you need to take the good and the bad — and often we are seldom made aware of the bad.
If anything can be learned from the great TV presenter cull of the 2010s it’s that fame and fortune are truly illusory and can be snatched away in a second.
In Psalm 139 David talks of a God who knows us — really knows us — warts and all. It’s scary and wonderful all at the same time. He then goes on to remind us that God’s always there, right beside us and, better still, that nothing can ever separate us from his love.
Humans are physiologically programmed to tell the truth even when we try to dissemble. We carry all sort of ticks and ‘tells’ when we lie or evade and there are even physiological changes in the body which form the basis of the now famous lie detector test.
We can’t hide from God and we can’t hide from ourselves.
The highest rung and the lowest depths are really just the same place. It’s only perception that changes. A chair is still a chair by the side of the rubbish dump or in the boardrooms of power.
Everything can be whipped away in a second. In my work as a doctor I see it everyday. The fatal accident or the certitude that the coronavirus doesn’t care whom it takes — it just does what it does.
But us, ourselves, God and his knowledge and love for us can’t be so readily changed. We are forever intertwined. Who we are in the spirit of Christ is what is truly important and allowing that spirit to live through you can never be anything else than the greatest of success, because that is actually “real”. The highest rungs and the lowest depths are often man-made constructs. And what is made by man can be just as easily dismantled. You are not as in control as you might think you are. In the end there is only the space-time you occupy right now and the eternal love and understanding of God.
Lord, grant me wisdom to see myself as others see me
Remind me you are never apart from me and won’t forsake me
Remind me I’m your child whom you would never let go and never stop loving
Let me see the world as it actually is and not how I would want it to be
Let me be my best self
Stay with me when I feel on top and keep me grounded
Stay with me when I’m grounded and let me soar
Take me by the hand and lead me where you want me to go.