Cynics, Scoffers, Despair, and Me (Psalm 1)

I am, by nature, a Pollyanna. I tend to look on the bright side, to see the good in everyone, to be Up most of the time. On the Enneagram, I am a Seven, which means life to me is just one big PB&J, to be enjoyed even as you get grape jelly on your face and on your new shirt.

There are times, though, where it all gets to be too much. Where too many bad things happen to too many good people. Where Teh Stupid and Teh Mean seem to be taking over the world, and not only is Christ’s Great Kingdom not coming on earth, it is not even showing up to play. And that’s when it is easy for me to move from puppy dogs and rainbows right to a full plate of Despair, with a bowl of Cynicism for dessert.

I’ve been there some lately. I’ve watched the news out of Ferguson and Baltimore; I’ve read about the obscene money being spent on our elections; I’ve talked with persons who see no way up or out — and I despair. I find myself becoming more and more cynical about the possibility of making a difference: the deck seems not only stacked against change, but completely rigged by the powerful. As my mood turns black, I start to think “what’s the use?”

Sitting in that mood, then, I was moved by one phrase from our Psalm for this week, Psalm 1. I was struck by that last phrase: “doesn’t sit in the seat of the scornful.” If we remember that the word “seat” is referring to a gathering place, an assembly, and not a chair, it makes more sense. How about this, then:

Blessed, happy, and enviable are you, because you choose to stay away from crowds of cynics,
you refuse to give in to despair,
and you don’t hang out with groups of people who just make fun of others when they try to make a difference.

“Okay, Lord, if I don’t give in to my despair, and turn to cynicism in self-protection, and hang out with people who only know gallows humor to deal with our current world — what do I do?” I think we all know the answer. (Spoiler: it’s in verse 2.)

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This past week, we did an exercise at church where we used Appreciative Inquiry to examine our past and begin visioning the future. At the end, the facilitator asked us to choose one word that captured what we had discovered during this exercise. The word I chose was “trust” — trust that God is still in control, trust that even in turmoil and chaos and, yes, even despair, God is still calling us to be change agents, and to remember that our fruit will appear in its season. And that knowledge, that trust, begins to lift the cloud of despair and remove the acid of cynicism — and I am able to believe, once again, that my life does matter, and that I can make a difference.

Thanks be to God.

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