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Psalm 32 and Finding Your Voice

When I was in middle school, I quit talking.

This is how I start most conversations when people ask me to tell my story. I became a Christian at five years old, so I don’t have a crazy salvation story to share. I just have a story of hardship and God’s faithfulness, which one day turned into doubt and despair, and which ultimately reminds me that God is in the smallest of details even when I believe, “[God’s] hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer,” (Psalm 32:4).

Verse 3 of David’s psalm struck me as so succinctly encapsulating how it feels to stay silent. He says, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long,” (Psalm 32: 3). Based on the rest of the passage, I believe David is speaking of staying silent instead of confessing his sin to God, because once he does, he says he is blessed. That said, I imagine David also had days when he stayed silent to other people because he felt afraid and sought shelter in God. He says, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance,” (Psalm 32:7). Staying silent from fear feels different from the silence of rebellion.

I spent the first part of eighth grade walking through fluorescent white hallways with my eyes trained on the speckled, white laminate below me. My brain only input as much information about avoid the black backpack, don’t run into the blue sweatshirt, and those guys are really loud as would get me through the halls with as little interpersonal contact as possible. I had refined the method over the span of four years, and I was pretty good at it. For some reason, though, a guy in my choir class couldn’t stand for the silence. He spent three minutes every other day walking me to computer class and alternating between asking me, “Why don’t you talk?” and “Can I wear blue socks with black shoes?” (He knew the second question almost got me to answer.) But at that point, I was so afraid of the words that might come out of my mouth, and that the words might end up hurting someone, that I refused to say anything at all. A dull, constant loneliness seemed less painful than the stabbing throb of knowing my words had cost me a friendship.

Eventually, I did speak to him. Then, I thought we had lost him. I spent a good week of my life thinking every time the phone rang, it would be my best friend’s mom calling to say the boy had killed himself. Thankfully, that call never came.

I didn’t learn to talk again immediately after that week, but I do think that week jolted me awake. That, and another boy in my gym class asking me how I could still smile when the other girls were so mean to me, and I was too shocked to say “Because Jesus” before he ran off to play basketball. I was learning that staying silent could cause as much pain as speaking.

I am thankful for God’s faithfulness during those years. He kept sending these boys I didn’t know to ask me random questions that stunned me speechless. And in the years since then, He has continued to send people who force me to speak, including my husband and some of my dearest friends. As David points out in verse 3, staying silent slowly eats away at your spirit until you feel dead inside. That’s why I’ve learned to pray for courage and speak up. I’ll mess up the words nine times out of ten, but it feels so much better to have the words out in the open instead of eating me up like a disease on the inside.

I’d like to end today’s memory with the praise at the end of the psalm. David gives us such a hopeful exhortation to leave with. I pray over you today, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). Shout for joy so those words don’t get trapped inside you. Someone just might need to hear them.

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Hummingbird Redemption, part 2

Find part 1 here.

*

As the bird continued to flit around the silent garage door motor, my mom and I watched him grow weaker. His wings stopped closing tight against his body. His little body heaved. His body leaned sideways off his perch.

I sat on the carpeted garage steps and looked up “how to get a hummingbird out of a garage.” Thankfully, Thriving Home had a post with exactly that title. As we skimmed the explanation of why hummingbirds get trapped in garages, I worried when I saw that hummingbirds could only last a few hours without nourishment. It certainly explained why our trapped friend was drooping so badly.

Thriving Home suggested using a rake to coax the little fella to perch so we could safely carry him outside to open skies. Well, our rake was in the shed, but we did have a broom with a red dust pan that would work similarly. I plucked a flower off of our butterfly bush outside and tucked it between the broom handle and dust pan, hoping that at least the sweet nectar might entice the little guy away from the ceiling, which was currently covered in red dots from the hummingbird’s hungry tongue.

Broom PerchIt wasn’t working. I carried a ladder over to where the hummingbird flitted and held the broom closer to the bird’s beak. He landed on the garage door motor, not a foot from my face. His feathers were ruffled, his eyes were glazed, and his head started drooping back. I was afraid he would fall and die on me. I shoved the dustpan under his little body so his carcass wouldn’t land on my shoulder or foot.

In a burst of energy, the bird flew back up. My mom grabbed the broom from me. She started to cheer. “He’s on the broom!”

I scrambled down the ladder and followed her out of the garage. Sure enough, the little bird sat peacefully on top of the dustpan. We headed for the butterfly bush so the bird could find food. Two feet from the purple blooms, he flew into the night. The red sky of dusk left his little body in shadow, and we watched until his shadow got lost in those of the trees.

*

It amazed me how much of saving the hummingbird involved saving him from himself. Had his beak pointed at the ground once, he might have seen all the red lights and sustenance we brought for his survival. But not even putting the bloom to his face could entice the bird to eat.

I was reminded of how often God has to redeem us from ourselves. He redeemed us from sin once and for all, but so often we bump against the ceiling, leaving tiny red marks, when the whole world awaits us outside. When the hummingbird eats, he causes plants to grow. When humans work with each other, we can cause the world to grow. Our purpose is outside: to care for the world God gave us and the people God gave us to work with.

No matter how many times we bump against the ceiling in God’s name, if He has the garage door open, we will die trying to find our own way out above us. Thankfully, God’s pretty good with a rake, or a dustpan attached to a broom, to lend us a perch.

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Hummingbird Redemption, part 1

Redemption

  1. The act of making up for
  2. An exchange for something of value
  3. The act of saving from sin

*

After dinner, my dad called my mom and I back to the garage. He pointed to the window where two hummingbirds had flitted against the glass before we ate our meal. “One flew out, but the other one is stuck above the garage door.”

Garage WindowI ran into the empty space where my brother’s truck normally sits and stared up at the ceiling. The hummingbird now flitted around the metal structure holding the motor for the garage door. When the tiny bird rested, I could see his coat was an iridescent green. His wings were tipped almost black and dotted with small white specks. His beak, long and thin like a sewing needle, had an even smaller tongue poking out. The poor little guy was hungry.

My mom and I ran around the house grabbing every red thing we could find, since we believed hummingbirds to be attracted to the strong color. I peeled the Coke wrapper off a plastic bottle and held it over my phone light. My mom found an old emergency flashlight with a blinking red setting. We grabbed a red bird feeder and filled it with water. We even sang Zipadee-doo-da, but nothing could distract the little bird from pointing his beak straight at the plain white ceiling.

*

At church Sunday morning, a visiting pastor spoke on the importance of finding our purpose in God. Jesus’s mission, the pastor said, could be summarized in a single word: redemption. Our mission was the same. We are to redeem our city and our nation. We are to love God, not serve Him out of fear.

The pastor challenged us to find our true purpose with the question, “Is it what God wants you to do, or is it doing what you want in the name of God?” The pastor said his life had two redemptions: the first, redemption from sin; the second, redemption from self.