Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts inspired by Psalm 139

I would like to share a couple of thoughts or observations from the Psalm 139.  We usually focus the most on the passage that speaks about, "praising God because we are fearfully and wonderfully made."   Sometimes we read scripture for the sake of reading and looking to have something pop out at us with a new revelation of understanding.  There are times when we read a set of passages with an agenda in mind.  Not to proof text specifically, but rather recognizing the general message of a particular text and looking more deeply into it hoping and seeking further clarification of the agenda item.  My reading and reflection of this particular Psalm on this particular day was focusing on "self-esteem".  So, as I read through this Psalm, my mind is looking for phrases that might spur deeper contemplation of how the writer's relationship with God might help one deal with issues of low self-esteem.  Specifically from the perspective of someone who identifies with the LGBTQ community and growing up in an environment that does not understand human sexuality as being a non-moral issue. 

For those of us who have grown up in a society that demonizes homosexuality, there is a constant struggle to maintain a healthy and positive self-esteem.  Of course, many people struggle with issues of self-esteem where sexual orientation is not the issue.  It is what we often write off as part of the "human condition" or some Christians would say, "a part of the fallen state of humanity."  I feel uncomfortable when I hear this type of language for it can be a cop-out from taking responsibility at either a personal or societal level.  Low self-esteem is most often a result of receiving negative reinforcement by outside sources.  As an example, many young girls are inadvertently given information that the ideal woman should look like "Barbie".  Young boys are taught that men do not behave in  certain ways, such as showing emotion that would be concieved as weak, such as crying.  Society tells each and every one of us, what is appropriate and what is desireable.  We call them norms and that is what helps a society function with some order.  But what happens when these "norms" do not ring true with the individual?  What if society says "blue eyes" are better and you have "brown eyes?" Studies have shown that those with what the general belief is, tends to be less tolerant toward those who do not fit the accepted norm.  This intolerance provides the basis for negative reinforcement, which leads to lower self-esteem for those who are not meeting the expectations of those they live around.

Psalms 139, speaks to this situation in recognizing that there are people who speak against God.  The Psalmist says, "They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name."  So how do people commit evil against God - they misuse God's name.   How does this happen?  How does someone mis use God's name?  I has been my observation that many well meaning Christians and ministers often misuse God's name.  Pulpits all across this country, Sunday after Sunday speak evil of God by misusing God's name and do not even recognize it.

The answer to this observation comes from the Psalmist understanding of his relationship with God, as a creation of God.  Verse 13 states, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written i your book before one of them came to be."  From the creation stories we learn that what God created, God pronounced "good."  St Peter was chasticed about what was acceptable and unacceptable food from Jewish rituals in a vision of God presenting everything acceptable to be eaten.  The Psalmist see's that each of us is made by God, to God's specification, when we denimish a human being as "less than", we are in truth telling God that God has done wrong.  This is not a good thing to do according to the Psalmist.  For  who are we, as Job was reminded, to question the works and wisdom of God?  When well meaning Christians start to beat people up in the name of God, whether physically, socially, or verbally, then they are acting in evil.

We have much to learn in the Church about how we abuse God.  When we stand on traditions that have been handed down to us from generation to generation, without examining how these traditions affect humanity and the world in which we receive our daily bread from, we might very well be acting as evil agents against the Creator of all.  When our actions and words are used to deniger another human being and we use them in God's name, we are acting in evil toward humanity and toward God.  It is through these negative actions and words that we create and cultivate within any brother or sister low self-esteem. 

For God created each and everyone of us, we are His children, we are brother and sister to one another.  Like the Psalmist we need to be in constant prayer asking, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  Is our need to demean another coming from our own anxieties about who we are deep inside?  Let God in, so we might recognize the full beauty of each person that God has placed in our lives.  Amen