Drone Tones

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

Sunday March 17, 2019; Psalm 27 full text linked below:


I am reading Iris Origo’s Italian War Diary** this week.  On July 11, 1943, she woke to the sound of booming.   Her diary records the noise of naval bombardment, the reports of allied landings in Sicily, and the  ‘little festa’ celebrating her newborn daughter’s christening.  ‘A day of strange contrasts,’ Origo wrote, adding, ’The introit [for the Mass] is appropriate:  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident…’ I read Origo’s journal and wonder how people are able to live, when dailiness itself is warped by being woven with the weft of war.

I do not suffer the shudder of bombardment punctuating the introit to Mass, nor — as Origo heard through the waves of her own labor pain — the groaning of an injured airman in the next room.  But I read the news.  Last week’s Ethiopian airplane crash.  Yesterday’s massacre in the New Zealand mosque.  Other events, less traumatic, but closer to home. 

There are times I am overwhelmed with it all:  the scale of suffering, the number of needs, the amount of things that must be done, that I could and should do.  I am pulled askew, taut and thin, stretched as if to breaking.  The present pain of the world sounds a drone tone to my life — as the sounds of bombardment were to the sung introit of Origo’s daughter’s Christening Mass.  An untimely syncopation, pulling any sense of melody off-key.  Such days I cannot even recall hope, much less sense it.  If only I could fix myself towards some single point, I think, if only so, then at least I could claim it.

‘One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:  to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple’ (Psa 27:4).

One thing only.  One thing enough.

The psalmist knew the same trouble as I, as Origo, as any.  The psalmist is similarly pulled.  The psalm does not strike a single note but many, it is woven through with a whole gamut of emotion, of need, of desire.  The psalmist is battered by circumstance, aware of enemies, even, at times, feels forsaken by the LORD.   

‘Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud … Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!’ (Psa 27:7a, 9).

Yet the drone-tone through the psalm is not, in fact, the world’s pain, nor even the psalmist’s.  Those are named, and truly, and held up to God.  Attention is paid, as it must be.  But the sustaining tone behind the noise is the singleness of the psalmist’s conviction of the LORD’s beauty, of the LORD’s succor:  ‘he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock’ (Psa 27:5).  The warp is kept taut and true despite the varied weft by the singleness of the psalmist’s hope in the LORD’s hearing and the LORD’s goodness.

‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD’ (Psa 27:14).

Step to that beat.  Not because it is easy nor even obvious.  But because it is the only way to keep walking through the valley when hope cannot be felt nor recalled but only claimed.  One step.  The next.  Wait for the LORD.  Claim the LORD my light and my salvation.  Claim the LORD my goodness through all my days.  Claim the LORD claiming me.

May the days be woven straight, even when the path runs slantwise to sense, to justice, to grace.  May the days be woven true with and into love.  May the sum of all the weaving be the pains eased, the hurts healed, and the world returned to wholeness as all shout together with joy.

** quotes from Iris Origo, War in Val D’Orcia:  An Italian War Diary 1943-1044; London:  Pushkin Press (2017), pp. 63, 59.

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