The then, the now and the future are in hands of the Almighty
January 20, 2010
In the early quiet of an as-of-yet uncluttered Saturday, I kick back and ruminate on Psalm 46. The backdrop for the timeless psalm is different for me than it has ever been before. Haunting visions of Haiti play like one of those shifting screensavers.
Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith intertwines with the earthquake accounts. I've just finished the book (I actually read the eulogy part at about 1 a.m. when sleep eluded me). I have a new perspective on the initial words of the ancient song: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam and the mountains
quake with their surging."
I say new. Actually, it's not new. Just new to me. As Mitch sat at the feet of The Reb, so did I. (I should interject, for those of you who have not read the book, Reb is the title Mitch Albom gave to the rabbi in the Jewish house of worship he attended as a child—the same rabbi who, after hearing Albom speak, asked him to do his eulogy when the time came. Not having Jewish traditions in my background, I can't tell you what that stands for—I wonder to myself if it's kind of a cross between The Rabbi and The Reverend.) I should say, also, that I almost didn't read the book because I wouldn't look to Mitch Albom for insight into all things theological. After all, his orientation is Jewish and mine is Christian, but someone put her copy of the book into my hands and said, "Read it. You'll like it."
So I did. And I must say that his musings, as his relationships with both "The Reb" and a Christian pastor some others had come to think of by that same endearing term, took shape to give me a glimpse into the heart of Jewish thinking.
"The God of Jacob is our fortress."
He would get that. The Reb would get that.
The writer of the meditation I was re-reading would get that too—along with the part about the strong fortress being the psalm-writer's refuge and strength. Dr. Kevin Adams, director of the Sierra Leadership Network, a training program for new church leaders, lives and works in the Rocklin/Granite Springs, California area. As I recall having spent a bit of time in that area, I see the psalm through the eyes of this writer too. Granite formations. Mountains and springs.
As the perspectives of the two writers meet mine, I get it too! I revel in the measure of security that can be had. I continue through the psalm, to the part that says: "Be still, and know that I am God."
Wrapping all the thoughts together, in an all-encompassing finale (and, if you've read Albom's book, you can probably hear, as I can, The Reb break into song on this one), the psalm writer exclaims: "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah."
At exactly this point, I think: "Now. Where do I put the quotation marks on this? Before or after the word 'Selah'?"
So, I go to Webster.
Here's what he says:
Selah: a Hebrew word of unknown meaning at the end of verses in the Psalms-- perhaps a musical direction, but traditionally interpreted as a blessing meaning forever.
The then, and the now, and the future—the unknown of it all—are wrapped in the arms of the Almighty. Selah. I don't have to understand it—just rest in it.
Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.