1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions
(Psalms 20:1-5 ESV)
What do you do when you know no one wants you? When you know no one loves you?
In my book, The Love That Matters: Meeting Jesus in the Midst of Terror and Death (which you should all buy and read if you haven’t yet), I talked a little about what it felt like to be almost completely abandoned and unwanted in the world:
At seventeen, I had three great questions of the world. Would anyone ever want me? Would anyone ever love me? Would I belong anywhere? I had no idea what the answers to those questions would be. I had the vague hope, thanks to that voice I had heard in the fifth grade, that there was a “yes” out there. somewhere. But really, I had no idea where I was going. Or how to get there.
It would be fair to say that over 30 years later, I still feel some of this. I’ve been rejected — twice — for ordination by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which didn’t quite toss me out the door and then scream, “and stay out!”, but came pretty close. I’ve not managed to find work I can, in good conscience, do for any great length of time. (My sojourn in corporate America is teaching me things I’d rather not know.) The fact that I don’t seem fit for life in the modern world is only ameliorated by the fact that my marriage to Jennifer is as a solid a rock as I can ever stand on — we love each other without condition — and that there are churches out there, where I’ve preached and presided and simply been, that would call me if they could, if they had the money or if they were allowed to.
And there are these kids, these beautiful kids broken and wounded by violence and neglect and unlove. To hear their despair is to live mine again, but knowing now what I wish I could have known at 17 — there is love, and belonging, and purpose, and even meaning. Less than I wanted, but far more than I imagined.
It’s not much. I’m almost 50, and I’ve not really found a place of my own. The world only sort of works for me. But I have found some people. And they have found me. And we belong to each other.
So, is this what it means for the Lord to answer me in the day of trouble? To reach out from his resting place in his shattered and broken house and help me? Is the sacrifice that is my life — sometimes a simple offering and sometimes set alight on the altar — acceptable?
And my heart’s desire? And my plans? I wanted to be famous. To be well-off. I wanted people to listen to me, to regard me, to respect me, to appreciate me. I wanted to play songs for adoring crowds and speak words of wisdom to rapt audiences.
I have had a little of that.
But my heart’s desire is still … to be wanted, to be loved, to find a place of belonging. And I have. In Jennifer. In my kids. It is not what I wanted or imagined or hoped or prayed for. But there is adoration, regard, and rapt attention. There is love — more than I could ever imagine.
Prayers unspoken, yet answered. Desires and plans fulfilled. After a fashion. After a bent and crooked and glorious fashion.
So, I shall shout for joy that the Lord has been good. He has given me all I have asked for and more. That there is love without end in a world so good and skilled at being brutal and indifferent. I ask now for these things for those I care for, the young people who have come to me not knowing, as I didn’t know, what would come. Seeing in me something of hope, and love, and acceptance, yet still wondering if sorrow and suffering would be all there is. Fearing it would be. And wanting no more of it.