Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Psalm 57) transports me to the middle of the ocean with a youngster named Pi. If you haven’t read The Life of Pi, you should check it out; it’s a fascinating read. The set-up: A ship is transporting a zoo (literally) across the sea from India to its new home in Canada, when a shipwreck leaves one of the passengers, a boy named Pi, on a lifeboat with some frightening companions. Here is a sample of the long list of things Pi records as being within his view: 192 tablets of anti-seasickness medicine, 124 tin cans of fresh water, 32 plastic vomit bags, 1 spotted hyena, 1 Bengal tiger, 1 lifeboat, 1 ocean, 1 God (p. 145-146). The preface to the book makes this claim: I have a story that will make you believe in God.
The Psalmist David is living a story in this passage that certainly makes him believe in God. Like Pi, he recounts his tale: I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts. But even as the enemies whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords cast their net to catch him, David exalts the Lord and praises God among the nations. His heart is steadfast—you can hear him repeating that nautical catchphrase as he navigates the heavy sea with God’s wings sheltering him from the storms— steady as she goes— meaning, keep the boat upright, keep it headed toward the destination.
Sometimes the craziness of life makes me feel like we are all traveling on a freighter carrying a zoo to its new destination. The spotted hyenas let out their blood curdling laugh as the Bengal tigers bare sharp teeth in hopes of a prey. Sometimes the storms of life cause the ship to capsize and we find ourselves alone with some of these threatening animals on our lifeboat. We wonder if 32 plastic vomit bags will be enough. But we remember that there is one ocean, and one God, and God is with us. While it may feel like the end of the world is coming on us, we remember that we are living a story designed to make our neighbors and the nations believe in God. So what do we do? We awaken our souls. We awaken the music within us. And when the darkest hour comes and threatens to choke us with fear, we awaken the dawn, and the resurrected sun reminds us of the resurrected Son. We daydream of hyenas and tigers and lions suddenly lying peacefully alongside lambs, and the urge to destroy is gone from their instincts. Interestingly enough, the tune of this dream Psalm is called Do Not Destroy. I’d subtitle it Zooropa, and have Bono provide the chorus: She’s gonna dream up the world she wants to live in; she’s gonna dream out loud.
What about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.