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My soul longs after you

Psalm 42 starts with a wonderful image and a deep desire.

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.

However, the psalmist’s longing, we quickly find out, comes about because his soul is so heavy. Not only does he feel forgotten by God, but also the people around him mock him saying; “Where now is your God?” He is totally disquieted. Although he recognizes his spiritual thirst, he does not know the way forward. Yet, in what seems like a dead end, he concludes his lament by saying ; “I will yet give thanks to him who is the help of my countenance and my God”.  I suppose in our current times he could be saying “Ça va bien aller”. He does not give up hope.

When I read the opening lines to this Psalm I am reminded of that wonderful praise song “As the Deer Pants” which starts with;

“As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship you”.

I must admit that in these pandemic times, although my heart’s desire remains strong, the “how to” of worship has thrown me off kilter. Communion and community are now not as I have known them. My soul is disquieted.

I am reminded at times like this of Thomas Merton’s famous prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  

Merton’s desire echos the Psalmist’s longing. He too does not give up hope.

As I struggle with my changed routines, I hold fast to my heart’s desire.  As time goes by, day by day, by God’s grace, I have found new ways to worship, in quite different settings. And as I sing to myself, I am reassured that the Lord has acknowledged my spiritual thirst;

You alone are my strength, my shield
To you alone may my Spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

Ralph Leavitt


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