Joy in Discovering the Multi-Dimensional God
We have been looking for ways to deepen our worship together as a family, and the coronavirus quarantine has brought unexpected opportunities to do just that; blessings can come when you least expcect them can't they?! For example, over the last couple months or so, we’ve eaten almost every meal together as a family. Which also means we’re praying together a lot more.
Early on, when we didn’t know just how bad the virus could get, if we’d get sick or not, if life as we knew it would forever be altered, we resolved to focus on gratitude and thanking God for the life we did have, the health we did enjoy, and the predictability we took for granted every morning at the start of a day.
After a few times of showing our gratitude in this way, we started to feel we were too limited by our words. Try as we may, we were starting to repeat ourselves. Our external rituals were becoming inadequate reflections of the internal state we wished to cultivate.
I started to read a Psalm every day at lunch and immediately our vocabulary of praise and worship expanded. Now we were giving thanks to God for creating the heavens and the stars (Ps. 136); for knowing our every thought (Ps. 139); for his goodness (Ps .145); for being a rock and sanctuary in trouble (Ps. 18); for reigning supreme over all earthly affairs (Ps. 47); and cleansing us from sin (Ps. 51) and so many other things.
Soon the kids asked if they could be the ones to read psalms, which has been a real blessing. They take such pride in lugging their Bibles to the table and turning to the psalm they picked out to read that day. Even the little one, who can’t read, will open his children’s picture Bible (sometimes upside down) and recite from memory the Lord’s Prayer as best he can.
There were some hiccups in the beginning. My kids had seen me use a highlighter when I read the Bible, so naturally they found some permanent markers and “highlighted” what they wanted to read. I winced a bit, seeing their Bibles marked up in all sorts of colors, pages folded and marked up. I wanted them to be more meticulous and tidy, and treat the Bible as a sacred object. But then I realized, this is even better. This was the whole point of wanting to share scripture with them, for them to engage it on their own terms. And they did finally start using the right highlighters.
It took me a while to get used to letting the kids pick which psalms they read. The first couple days we were treated to kids reading about God striking enemies in the face and pouring out burning coals on the wicked. I told them to find psalms that were happier or less violent. My wife Elin wisely suggested we shouldn’t restrict them like that else they end up with a one-dimensional view of God.
And so we’ve settled into a sweet rhythm. By the grace of God I was able to get out of the way. The kids now pick a wide range of psalms. We’ve added to our daily lunch ritual along the way. We now ask them why they chose that psalm, what they liked about it. Then we ask a question or two about what something meant. And we’re learning to pray the psalm, say God’s words back to him in worship.
Lunch time, which is to say Psalm time, has become a real oasis. There are days when I get to the lunch table stressed or distracted because I’m on the phone with a client, days when frankly I want to just eat fast, and then I look around the table, Bibles open, faces eager and I relax a bit. It’s a relief that this doesn’t all depend on me and my particular mood. We have grown into a community of believers, every one of us coming to the table with something to share, ready to encourage the other.
There have been some hard times in these days of quarantine. We had an uncle die of coronavirus. We’ve had spells of fear and moments of uncertainty. And that’s when I’m most thankful we haven’t been chasing a one dimensional God. That’s why all the psalms are important, not just the “happy” ones. Prayer gives us a passport into the wild country of death and dying and sickness and cruelty and brokenness. We can venture forth, tethered to gratitude, the certainty of God’s character, and the hope of our eternal joy in Christ.