This post has not let me go. I have been thinking about the contrasts between these two passages for nearly the last week and it finally all clicked for me tonight. Nothing in partictular did it, but it just came together for me. Several days ago, I went on a walk to talk through my sermon (part of my rather unusual sermon prep process) and went to a favorite close-by park. I got really frustrated as I walked in to see that someone had graffiti-ed the gazebo near the entrance and then saw several more places along my walk where spray paint adorned the grass, benches, and a few signs. It was really frustrating to me. And then I came to another sight just a few hundred yards later – I was going to go to my favorite spot to just sit and pray (and yes talk my sermon out – strange, I know) when I saw a couple just sitting there on the bench I was heading for. I just loved seeing the two of them sitting close together and the man pointing out different things and the woman just there leaning in towards him. (Creepy warning) I just stood there and watched them and was just moved by what I saw.
I went further on and sat down and read the passages for that day – Psalm 139 and 1 Cornithians 13. Two passages that could not seem more opposite. Psalm 139 is one of the most brutal laments in Scripture – the Psalmist recounting the bitterness and anger of the people in exile in Babylon, going so far as to wish an unbelievably brutal end not only to their captors but their children as well (I’ll let you read it on your own). Reading that Psalm gives me feelings that echo what I felt as I walked into the park that day – just like the graffiti wasn’t what I wanted to see, this Psalm was not what I wanted to read. But then, I came to 1 Corinthians 13 – “the wedding passage” – Love is patient, love is kind, etc…the greatest of these is love. Its a passage that has been used in countless weddings and just feels like such a contrast to the feelings behind Psalm 139.
Its like the contrast that I felt that morning – going from the graffiti to the couple on the bench. But I wonder whether there is a bit of a connection between the two – from maybe what was behind the actions of those who graffiti’ed the park – maybe there was an anger they were feeling deep underneath and this was a (maybe unconscious) way to express it. I’m not supporting the actions but wondering about the feeling underneath. And then moving to the feeling that I experienced as I saw that couple on the bench. The spread of human emotions – anger, hatred, love, connection. All of it there.
But the beauty in it all is that all those emotions are ones that can be lifted to God. God doesn’t just desire the times that we feel happy and all seems right. God wants to hear when things are hard, when we are hurting, when we are angry, even if that anger is at God – just as the Psalmist here expresses and is expressed many other places as well.