On and off for several months, I’ve been a lurker at The Hardest Question. It’s a great site with a simple concept: to look at the week’s selection of Lectionary passages from the Bible and– rather than deriving the simplest answer– to find the hardest question. The preachers and writers who contribute are great, and bravely question the text in a way that is most life-giving.
Debbie Blue is doing her magic this week, and it moved me to some contemplation of my own. Psalm 137 is a favorite of mine, with its bitter and earthy and honest lament. Debbie rightly insists that we read it with our gut rather than our rationality. Which got me thinking about how and why the mysterious planners of the Lectionary grouped the passages for this week. What is the thread that runs through it?
It seems to me that Psalm 137 is the charge. The lament. The declaration. The hard question. It is the he gaping wound; the overwhelming illness that lies at the center of our human experience. Why do we treat one another so horribly? And where is God when we’re doing so?
And– at least in my imagination– Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 is presented as the answer. “Wait” is one of those things that everyone tells you when your life falls apart. Easy to say, and hard to hear. It’s one of those words that enters your ear like a tiny puffer fish which inflates once it arrives in your brain. Wait? Screw that. Wait? My foot! The damage has already been done; we can’t turn back the clock or undo life’s circumstance. There are no ‘do-overs’ in life, just a long, slow grind to the grave. And Habakkuk has the temerity to tell us to ‘wait‘? Waiting doesn’t change anything. Waiting just protracts the whole sorry mess.
Waiting is the universal, ubiquitous, useless answer… But it is also true. Waiting helps. Waiting gets easier. Waiting doesn’t change the situation, but it changes us. I know this is true. But still, I hate it. The only thing I hate more than waiting is some well-meaning person telling me to wait. Including you, Mr. Habakkuk.
My hardest question: How are we supposed to wait when we can barely breathe?