While I’m a Monty Python fan in general, there’s a completely unfair line in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”, attributed to God Himself, about the Psalms. A blasphemous image of The Big Guy Upstairs says, “It’s like those miserable Psalms– they’re so depressing.”
Well, yeah, some of them are depressing. They are, after all, the rantings of a fellow (King David) who goes through a lot of pain (much of it self-inflicted), depression, and grief. Some of his thoughts, expressed in those song lyrics, are bound to be depressing. Just like some of my posts are depressing. They should be. They’re about Real Life. Yet I wouldn’t want them all lumped together – baby, bathwater, and all – and rejected out of hand as depressing.
Many of the Psalms are not only not depressing, they effervesce with joy:
Surelygoodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (23)
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (150)
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. (33)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (133)
That’s just a taste. But I’m glad David didn’t just write about or during the Good Times. That would be false. If scripture is anything, it’s real, gritty, and in the trenches where we all live.
What does it take to write a psalm? Do you have to be a king, a shepherd, a giant killer, a murderer, or a musician, all of which are bullets on David’s scandalous curriculum vitae? No, but you do have to be human, with emotions, troubles, and joys. That pretty much covers all of us, doesn’t it? If you’ve read a psalm for comfort, why not write one of your own? It’s what David did to soothe his soul.
Here’s an easy way to start. At least two of the Psalms are episodic in nature: 107 and 136. Try rewriting one of those with something from your own experiences. Instead of “going down to the sea in ships” as in Psalm 107, maybe you brave the traffic to make your living in an office, classroom, or machine shop. Those are trials as much as is fishing for a living.
Psalm 136 intersperses the Exodus story with declarations: “for his steadfast love endures forever”. Tell your story the same way. We all have our own stories, just as David, Moses, Esther, Peter, and Paul did. And, like those Great Folks of Old, yours declares your history with your God.
So go ahead, be a David. By that I don’t suggest you kill someone and take his wife. I mean, write your own psalm. Pour your heart onto the page. Purge.
Dump on God. He can take it.