Each week, we look at one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday. This week we are looking at the Psalm reading: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. I don't know why they skipped 7-12. Frankly, it's a bit frustrating and you'll notice at the link that I included those omitted verses.
Growing up, I often felt like I didn't fit in. I wasn't a complete loner. I wasn't bullied. I had friends. But despite appearing fairly normal by outward appearances, I just felt out of sync with my peers. It was not dramatic. I didn't have suicidal thoughts or go through depression. It was just this constant low hum in my mind, like what you hear when something is wrong with your car but can't figure out what.
So the idea that God loved me even though I was not cool, I was not popular, or felt like I didn't fit in was something that I latched on to. I would go to passages in scripture that would remind me of this idea again and again.
Psalm 139 was one of those lifelines that I would sometimes hold to until my knuckles were white. To hear that God knew everything there was to know about me yet still loved me meant the world to me. It gave me hope. To know that I was fearfully and wonderfully made helped me believe that I had some sort of purpose. Psalm 139 was one of the threads that sewed me so tightly with my faith.
Time and having a family has put some of that in perspective. It'll still haunt me from time to time, but those teenage overcast afternoons of the soul don't come around as often. Yet insecurities don't ever disappear. Sometimes they just move to a new house in the same neighborhood. What makes me insecure on occasion these days is not whether I fit in with my peers, but whether I fit in with God.
Yesterday, I read an article about Al Mohler. He is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and thus a prominent mouthpiece for the denomination in which I grew up. He made some comments in which he posited that mainline Protestantism and more conservative evangelicalism were actually two different religions. The side dish of implication was that his side was the one, true religion. They were the ones on God's side.
I go to a Cooperative Baptist church. We are in this weird middle space between mainline Protestantism and evangelicalism. There are things on both sides of us with which we find agreement and other issues in which we are in disagreement. I consider both sides to be a part of the Christian faith filled with good people that love God (and other people). What I'm saying is Mohler was not specifically calling me out. At the same time, I can promise you that there are scores of points on which I disagree with Mohler; points he has stated are critical to his conception of the gospel.
And I hear that low hum. I hear that grinding, unholy noise that maybe God does not love me. I doubt that was his intention, but his dogmatic pursuit of doctrinal purity ripped open the threads in my heart. Hearing someone representing the faith tradition of my youth say those thing made me question whether Psalm 139 held any hope for me at all. These type of things happen every few months. It's a low hum, but it hurts deeply.
From the age of seven, I have believed that God loves me in spite of my flaws. I believe that Jesus saved me, is saving me, will save me. I have clung to these things. And every few months, the places from whence I came cause me to doubt that. It sucks. It makes me angry. It makes me want to cry.
So last night I sit down with the Psalm reading for this week: "Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me." And I grabbed on as tight as I could. Afterwards all I could pray over and over again was "Do not let me go. I am trying to follow you the best I can. I know that I'm not perfect. I know I don't have it all figured out. But, please God, do not let me go."
And I have to trust that God will not do that. I have to trust that in spite of what the Mohlers of the world say, God will not let me go. I have to believe that I do matter, that there is a place where I fit in. I need to believe that press on. There are moments when it is all I have.