It seems that Psalm 116, one of the Hallel psalms, in which we hear of 'lifting up the cup of salvation' and make mental links to the cup of wine that Jesus shared with his followers (a legitimate link, since the psalm probably would have been sung/chanted during the Passover Seder) may well have originally been composed as part of a purification ritual, possibly following illness or other 'uncleanliness'.
In our reflection yesterday, we noted that the trajectory of the psalm, which is one of gratitude though not celebration, is roughly thus:
- Life was really awful and in desperation I cried out to God 'save me'
- Life got better/I recovered and now I give thanks to God (in the presence of others, maybe in a ritual)
- Because God has been good to me, I rededicate myself to God and ask myself 'what now can I do for God?'
How we hear such a psalm will of course depend how life is for us.
If life is [expletive deleted] then the permission it gives us to cry or shout at God is important - 'for goodness sake, God, do something!'
If we have come out of the other side of a difficult time, it reminds us of the importance of gratitude. The ritualised re-integration of formerly 'unclean' persons is something that thankfully we don't do. But even so, at a personal level, saying 'thank you' to those who have 'been there' in whatever way, and to the God who is always there (even if seemingly silent or asleep), is important for our own well-being and humanity.
And now what? What difference does it make to have come through this? What will we 'do' as a result of experiencing God's goodness, directly, or in and through others? Perhaps it is something overtly spiritual. Perhaps it's something practical. Perhaps it is to re-evaluate our priorities. Perhaps it is to be kinder to ourselves or to others. There is no 'one size fits all', no single 'right' answer.
God has 'saved' me (from xyz), I am grateful and so I will rededicate myself to God's service by doing/being abc.
At a personal level, the last few months have been difficult. Since my Mum's death in May, another four people who, to some measure, were important to me, have also died. There has been a lot of death, a lot of practical stuff to get done, and a lot of private/personal stuff to work through. I am glad that I made the choice to seek professional help from a counsellor who has suggested strategies and techniques that have proved effective (if a times very hard work!). I am content that I have been open about this, at least to those who read this stuff. Now that I feel as if I am beginning to come out of the other side of a painful and lonely place, comes the 'so what?' If God has 'saved me from' - I prefer, travelled with me through, but the intent is broadly the same - whatever aspect(s) of grief it has been; if I am grateful and if I rededicate myself to God's service, what then does it mean? On this occasion, I am clear that the answer lies in self-care - not more stuff to do for others, not more study, not more reflection even, just being kinder to me... and trust me, that's a big commitment!! :-)