I am writing this from the parking lot in front of an in-patient psychiatric facility in Colorado Springs. I’m here for the day writing and praying for my daughter who is inside. Two nights ago she thought that it would be better to leave this world early, the pain and tears of life were just too much. After her encounter with pills and much alcohol, her brother and good friend found her locked in her bathroom, desperate, in pain, and crying out for relief. The resulting path led her to this facility where we seek to find hope.
In Psalm 131 we get a picture of Israel in captivity and exile to Babylon. The Psalmist here tries to capture the pain and torment of living away from the presence of God and the Temple.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
They are unable to sing songs of joy about Jerusalem, for she seemed far away. They were living in exile and somewhat bondage. Though Jeremiah had encouraged them to seek the prosperity and joy of the city, living into their season as exiles they still find it hard to keep their identity as God’s people, when forced to live away from God’s city.
Interestingly enough, the “rivers of Babylon” mentioned in the first verse, included the Euphrates, which if you remember, flowed from Eden. It’s as if they are weeping on the banks of a river that flows from the completion of their heart and identity in God. They think they want Jerusalem, Zion, a better city. What they really seek is just upstream, Eden…perfect relationship with the Father. They need to go upstream to resolve the tears, but there’s no way to get there again.
As I pray and think about my daughter’s struggle today. I’m reminded of this Psalm, and also of the Jeremiah passage to live into our identity as exiles in a land that’s not quite our home. While I truly believe that the earth is God’s creation, and we get the honor to join in the redemption of the Kingdom now, I also recognize the brokenness that sin has brought to perfection. We do battle the exile nature of life…and my daughter is simply having a very hard time with it now. She sits on the banks of a river wishing she could go upstream, to Eden. She has hung up her harp and finds it hard to sing. My job, as her father and guide is to help her find her song again, in spite of Babylon.
This season also reminds me of my own struggles with Babylon and the things I sit on the banks of the river complaining about. This event pushes me even harder to live as an incarnational person, sent into brokenness to share in the mission of God. This is why we MUST love our neighbor, live intentionally into broken places, bring glimpses of the Kingdom to others. We cannot be passive, we cannot be well-meaning, we must be activists! The world needs us to announce the Kingdom, to grab the harps off the limbs of trees and start singing that the Kingdom is near. Our neighbor needs to hear those harps, those songs…my daughter needs to hear it, and so I’ll sing for her.