Epiphany 4 - Year C
"Sheltering Rock" is the Hebrew behind "my rock and my fortress" and moves us away from static to dynamic imagery. This attending friend can show up in many a situation: external wars to internal aging. As a description of the Temple or an organizing principle it brings a response of thankfulness.
It is all too easy to make this psalm into a dramatic place where we go to appeal to and appease some larger entity. Consider the difference when we travel with, rather than to, a sense of refuge large enough that we are emboldened in action to proceed into the regular places of life with a sense of élan.
In the following letter to a local paper, "Sheltering Rock" is "a" type of language and "my Rock and my Fortress" is "the" talk. What do you think?
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Haiti has had a literal earthquake that needs both immediate band-aids and long-term structural responses. In the United States our political lives give evidence of an invisible quake revealing faults, rifts, and gaps between families and parties. The State of the Union Address by President Obama reminded us of that in these words, "I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future...."
Whether a decision-making context (politics) is that of family, institution, community, nation, or international, a first step in dealing with our division is a sincere acknowledgment that we have a problem that has gone beyond our ability to deal with it. Without this confession, breeches between perspectives will widen.
There is a simple and manageable, though very difficult, behavior that can be used at every level of disagreement. It is a new way of talking that takes every-day and life-long practice - to change our language from the definiteness of "the" to a humbler, more flexible and realistic conversation about "a" particular when we are dealing with common issues.
Our ease at turning a given situation or perspective into universals for all times and situations can be noted by listening to conversations and our own statements. Check out how often you hear "the" talk canceling out all options and how substituting "a" opens us to the best from all sides meeting one another and moving us forward.
By putting so much emphasis upon "the", we convince ourselves that we are absolutely right, someone is to blame, and there is no good in another's question or wisdom in another's experience that would widen our perspective and deepen the value of a resolution to a common problem. I am hopeful that we haven't yet let gaps between us widen to the point where we can't yet join hands in a larger goal than point-proving.
Matters of import such as health care, energy and environment, and beneficial uses of taxes have many individual and communal aspects that need the best each of us have to offer. Though it seems too simplistic, an awareness of our language by which we address common issues, can actually be a huge step forward in effective action. I invite you to join me in the persistent work needed for deeper listening, clearer framing, and more inclusive responses to "life's persistent questions", as Guy Noir® would put it.