Today's daily lesson is from Psalm 73 verses 21 thru 24:
"When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel."
I have friend who spent many years as a hospital chaplain ministering to the needs of the sick, dying, and grieving. Once we were talking about what his work was like and he said, "Chaplains soak up the world's hostility."
When we are hurt or bruised or in grief over the chaos and disappointment of life we often lash out toward those others - especially those who symbolize the holy. Having nowhere else to turn, we direct our hostility toward the priest or the chaplain or even the whole church. We become like wounded animals, hiding in the corner, hissing and snarling at anyone who would come near. As the psalmist says, we become like beasts, snapping in primordial response to our own wounded vulnerability.
When this happens relationships are usually lost. There is anger, there is finger pointing, people leave the church, Sunday school classes fall apart. Lifelong friendships end in bitter goodbyes. And everyone else - including the clergy - do their best to stay away, hiding, and seeking to avoid being collateral damage. That's understandable.
But a skilled clergyman or friend can do the opposite. He or she can come toward us in our pain, stand next to it, hold its hand, counsel it, and in so doing soak up its hostility. In other words, he or she can do what God does which is to make atonement with us - "at-one-ment" with us - even in our enmity.
If we can find that then blessed are we; if we can learn to be that then blessed is the world.