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Sitting in My Own Mess

as I recite Psalm 120

The Myrrhbearing Lay Sisters have arranged a Psalter group among ourselves for the duration of the Nativity Fast. I am enjoying this so much that I may continue even after Christmas! The Psalms are so dynamic and speak to a person's heart so specifically sometimes. They provide answers for questions on one's mind before they are even asked aloud. This happened to me today as I read this…

I call on the Lord in my distress,

and he answers me.

Save me, Lord, from lying lips

and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you,

and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?

He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,

with burning coals of the broom bush.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,

that I live among the tents of Kedar!

Too long have I lived

among those who hate peace.

I am for peace;

but when I speak, they are for war.

Save me from a deceitful tongue… I've recited this Psalm at vespers and the Presanctified Liturgy countless times, yet today these words came alive.

Lately, my family has brought to my attention the fact that I often speak to them as if I am a general and they are my platoon. I’m the mom! I love them dearly. In fact, I am sure that they are the reason God created me, and I am grateful for each one of them. So when they brought me their resentment, I was affronted and replied with dismissal and denial. I was only doing my duty to guide them well.

They, in turn, resented me even more, and the situation turned into a vicious cycle. For so long now, I’ve felt trapped by it and tried hard to weigh my words but defaulted to my usual patterns, ones that I had learned in my childhood and therefore had become comfortable and blind to the traces they left behind upon my children's souls. Each time I slipped, they rebelled as one would expect of grown adults who felt I was ignoring their requests. I thought they were being disrespectful. It burned my heart like a sharp arrow and burning coals indeed. It got ugly all too often. Our once-happy household was constantly on edge, and I began to despair. I was living among those who had no peace for much too long.

Why? Why would the Lord not enlighten them that this isn't meant as an insult but just a simple, motherly directive? What's wrong with this family? I really do want peace, but whenever I speak, it turns to war among us.

As I prayed this way today, sitting in the middle of the mess I made, I contemplated keeping silent altogether. I was so angry at my tongue! My thoughtlessness over its use was just too dangerous. Then I laughed at myself. I had so many things they wanted me to say that they NEEDED me to say, but they got lost in the criticism and the demands. I needed to carefully curate my words and expressions so that they weren’t so “off the cuff” and thoughtless. They needed me to say what I was saying in a kind and recollected way so they would land softly upon their hearts and be welcomed there.

I began to understand that it was indeed ME who needed enlightenment. I knew this, but the thought entered my mind, "Why wouldn't God have given me the grace to overcome this by now?" Why such prolonged agony? I understood suddenly that the Lord allowed me to reap what my tongue had sown so that I would feel the pain of my children's hearts deeply and intensely. This intensity would become the fuel to feed the fire of my repentance and desire to change so that when I do change, it will be complete.

The Lord is indeed merciful, even in His silence toward us. He allows us to sit in our own filth, so to speak, until we "get it." We must completely and deeply get it to feel repentance in our very bones and hate the sin we have committed so strongly that we run from it with all our might.

I learned so much by reading this psalm today. I am grateful to God for inspiring these beautiful verses for our edification. I am thankful to King David for receiving them and writing them down for posterity. I am thankful to my sisters in the psalter group for their quick agreement to join together to recite them. I am also grateful for my family and my beautiful and loving children, who deserve much better from me. I will look at myself honestly and carefully with new-found courage and determination today, hate my sinful faults, and change.

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Glory to You, O God!

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