Perfect Enemies

Friday, October 18, 2013 — Week of Proper 23, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 16, 17 (morning) // 22 (evening)

Jeremiah 38:14-28

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Matthew 11:1-6

The psalmist this morning asks the Lord for deliverance from a peculiar sort of enemy. Unlike the antagonists elsewhere in the Psalms, these people are not malicious, oppressive, or conniving. Instead, they are just people who seem to have full and perfect lives.

Sometimes, merely the image of someone else’s abundant and satisfying life can assault our sense of contentment and security. The psalmist asks for deliverance from those “Whose bellies you fill with your treasure, who are well supplied with children and leave their wealth to their little ones.” People with overflowing tables, happy families, and secure financial futures might trigger a tailspin of self-confidence for those of us whose lives fall short of this ideal.

But the psalmist knows how to deal with these dangers to his soul. He knows that the purpose of our lives is not to achieve a cultural ideal of fullness. Rather, the purpose of our lives is to know God deeply and intimately—through our disappointments and losses, through our disillusionment and emptiness. We may also know God through our cherished blessings, but a life of faith is open to seeing God throughout our imperfect lives.

Like us, the psalmist knows people “whose portion in life is in this world.” Whether we know them from our neighborhoods or from television, we certainly sense the danger they pose to our soul’s peace with the life that we lead in the presence of God. In all likelihood, though, these perfect enemies are only fantasies of the fulfillment that we imagine others experience.

We can oppose these phantoms with the psalmist’s confidence today: “at my vindication I shall see your face; when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” What could be more satisfying than seeing God at work in our lives as they unfold in imperfect ways? I hope that today is a day when we can wake up and be satisfied with a glimpse of God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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