This past Saturday, I spent the morning working at one of the local Habitat for Humanity builds. I was helping to hang drywall. One of the areas where we were working was around the stairwell going up to the 2nd floor. In the preceding weeks, they had built this tough “scaffold” for working on the walls of the stairwell instead of having to try to use a ladder on the stairs. (Smart!) Anyway, I spent a good bit of time on these boards helping to hang the drywall. Now, I know its a log wider than a tightrope but there were a few points as I was working where I had to remember that I didn’t have a whole lot to stand on as I was balancing, reaching, nailing, and so forth.
I was thinking as I worked about the tightrope that so many people feel today in their lives – walking the tightrope of family situations, of economics, of food scarcity, of relationships, of divisive politics, and of so many other things. I was talking with a friend who works in a form of counseling ministry and she noted that so many of her clients today speak of how they don’t feel like they have too many “safe places” anymore and that they live every day with a measure of anxiety and angst trying to find places of safety.
Psalm 17 feels like a tightrope walking to me. There is a consistent calling out to God from the very first verse – “Lord, consider my just cause! Pay attention to my cry for help! Listen to the prayer I sincerely offer!” The calls continue but seem to take on a greater sense of confidence and hope – It feels more like statements of trust in God’s protection and provision rather than pleading for God to act. But still even verse 5 feels like a tightrope passage – “I carefully obey your commands; I do not deviate from them.” As the Psalm concludes, it ends with an ascription of God’s faithfulness.
I resonate with the idea of walking the tightrope – There is so much that feels like things could just tip over with just a quick puff and things would change dramatically. I am not living in fear of it as much as it just feels that this is how it is today. But like these boards in the house, they might look and feel narrow, but they were rock solid and nothing was going to move them. It took some careful steps and paying attention, but it worked and it did what it was supposed to do. So, there’s something to that for life – keep walking the path that God has set out – do not turn to the right or the left, but just keep walking to “obey God’s commands” as verse 5 says. Step by step.