It was the last day of the Hot Rod Power Tour. Shannan and I were soaking up a beautiful June afternoon at the Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk Ohio with our friends Mike and Lynda, when they suggested we get ice cream.
Ice cream? I’m game!
Mike and Lynda knew the Summit Park, a proverbial “stones throw” from their home. They also knew the vendors, one of which was the Velvet Ice Cream Company.
Velvet only offers their ice cream in one size. Ready for this? ONE POUND! That’s right. You can get it in a cone or a cup, but you’re going to get one pound!
Why anyone would want a pound of ice cream is self-evident. If six ounces is good, sixteen ounces is GREAT. Yes, yes, yes. I know . . . calories and cholesterol and all that, but hey it’s not like I do this every day. I’ll make up for it with an apple later.
Rationalization rules when it comes to ice cream.
Oh, and did I mention that you get one pound of ice cream for one dollar. That’s right. And friends, this was not a special offer. It is just the way the Velvet Company does business at the Summit Park. And the ice cream is GOOD!
There’s only one catch! You have to being willing to wait in the line, which, as one might expect is as long as an Ohio cornfield.
I’m not the most patient guy. “How long have we been standing here?” I asked. To which my friend said, “It’s only been like ten minutes.” Yeah right! That question and answer became the running joke as we waited and waited and waited for the good stuff.
Isn’t that life? We wait and wait for the good stuff that we know is coming, but can never come fast enough.
I thought of this incident as I was thinking about and praying for friends stuck in the line of infertility. But it might as well apply to any of us anticipating delight, but seemingly stranded in the interminable line of disappointment. Like David in Psalm 69, we languish:
We need the Psalms. They are a necessary corrective to our contemporary understanding of God and the life of faith. In his book, Spirituality of the Psalms, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes:
“The gain . . . for the study of the Psalms is that it shows how the psalms of negativity, the complaints of various kinds, the cries for vengeance and profound penitence are foundational to a life of faith in the particular God. Much Christian piety and spirituality is romantic and unreal in its positiveness. As children of the Enlightenment, we have censored and selected around the role of darkness and disorientation, seeking to go from strength to strength, from victory to victory. But such a way not only ignores the Psalms; it is a lie in terms of our experience.
Can I get an “Amen!”
The Psalms help us see that life with God — the life of faith — is not measured in green lights, good times, and great stretches of “No lines, no waiting!” The life of faith is not “happily ever now,” nor is it only “happily ever after.”
The life of faith is hope, a confident expectation—not that my life will get better today—but that in my doubts and disappointments, my sadness and sorrow God is there. As Brueggemann writes, “The reason the darkness can be faced and lived in is that even in the darkness, there is One to address.” But he is not a part of the darkness. He is the light that shines in the darkness and which the darkness cannot prevail. As Dr. Brueggemann notes:
Brueggemann suggests that the Psalms can be generally grouped around three themes:
Orientation — Seasons of well-being in which we experience the joy, delight, goodness, coherence, and reliability of God.
Disorientation — Seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death that evoke rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred.
New orientation — Seasons of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy breaks through the despair; when light conquers darkness.
Life, like the Psalms, is moving from orientation to disorientation or from disorientation to a new orientation with God. It is never static and we never “arrive” this side of eternity (“happily ever now”). Our constant is God; God who became flesh, dwelt among us, endured His own disorientation on the cross, died, but rising from the dead overcame and now promises us his life and his presence.
Does this mean I stop caring about getting out of the line. NO! God speed that day when the waiting is over. But the real treat is knowing God, finding God with me in the line, and being able to pour out my heart to him as I wait.
David did many things in his season of disorientation, but one constant throughout his walk of faith was this: he fixed his eyes on the One who promises to be with us in the dark wait. It is why his psalm that begins in pain ends in praise:
29 But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
Are you in the long line of disappointment. It’s not necessarily a sign of God’s displeasure. It’s life.
We hear, “Wait for it!” and think “it” is the ice cream at the end of the line. But for the believer, the “it” is really the “Him”, the One who stands with us in the darkness, who loves us, cares for us and will not allow the darkness to prevail.
He is the One who brings joy that breaks through the despair. Waiting for Him, waiting with Him is the one thing we must do to survive and thrive in the long line of disappointment.
“The gain . . . for the study of the Psalms . . .” from Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms (Facets). Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2002. Page xii.
“The reason the darkness can be faced . . .” from Spirituality of the Psalms, page xiii.
“Because this One has promised . . .” from Spirituality of the Psalms, page xiii.