The Fifty-Fifth Psalm
Fiction by Gary Piper
“Greg, can you tell me why God listens to non-Christians more than he does us who are trying to live right?” Trish, asked her husband as they sat eating breakfast.
Greg was almost sure he knew where Trish’s question was coming from because of the two times the company’s contract offer was unanimously turned down. Before having a chance to give her an answer he remembered their conversation the night before and he realized there were deeper reasons for her question.
Uttering a quick silent prayer for direction Greg asked, “It’s not really about the contract is it?”
“What else could it be?” she reacted defensively.
“Do I have to spell it out for you?”
“Yes, if you think you know so much,” she, snapped back.
“It’s about Cindy, Kathy, Max, and Gloria. Then we’ll mix a little work stuff in for good measure. Am I hitting a nerve?” Gregg asked.
Waiting for a reply Greg noticed tears forming in her eyes then dropped he his head and silently prayed once more, “Lord, help Trish to empty her heart of its pain and doubt. Give her the assurance that she is of ultimate worth no matter how many persons reject her.”
Standing up and getting a paper towel so she could dry her tears, Greg walked back to the table then began wiping her eyes.
After several minutes, “I thought I’d gotten past the hurt of being rejected but apparently not. What’s wrong with me that so many people are always rejecting me? What did I do? What did I say? Why does God not listen to my prayers?”
Again, silence filled the room.
“I’m angry, Greg. I want God to make them hurt just as they are making me hurt. They know better they say they believe in Jesus but their actions sure don’t prove…” stopping in mid sentence she covered her face with her hands and began crying again.
“How can they do that? You expect that from those union jerks that can’t see beyond their nose but these are or were my friends. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I learn to keep my big mouth shut?”
Just as Greg was about to say something, “I just want to run away somewhere where there are no people to hurt me. Sometimes I want even God to stay away because he’s the only one who can do something about it and refuses to. Why does God listen to evil people more than me?”
After a brief pause, “That’s it! That’s what’s wrong with me! I’m evil and everyone else is righteous! That has to be it!”
Wiping the tears from her eyes once more Trish stood up and moved toward the living room. “We’re not done here yet. I still haven’t answered your question,” Greg said.
“Don’t need one. I may be an evil person but I’m not stupid because I can figure some things out all by myself,” Trish, replied continuing to walk away.
Beginning to get to his feet something suddenly pushed Greg back in his seat then a soft whispering voice said, “Not now.” He could hear Trish talking to herself but he could not make out what it was.
After several minutes, “Aren’t you going to say something?” she called out.
“Sounds to me like you’ve said it all,” he answered back.
Standing in the doorway, “you’re suppose to tell me how wrong I am that God loves me in spite of the loser I am,” she said.
“Do you expect me agree with you?”
“No, I want you to help me out.”
“How can I do that when you keep putting yourself down and thinking your some evil person?”
“I want you to convince me I’m not,” she replied, with tears streaming down her face.
“Trish, I would if I could. But before I can do that, you need to see that you are not at fault, you are God’s greatest creation, and you are not some evil demon. It has to start with you, not me.”
“But how do I do that? It’s hard for me to believe that I’m not to blame when so many people have rejected me?”
Motioning for Trish to take her seat once more Greg found himself deep in thought trying to separate his feelings of anger, compassion, and love for Trish. “Lord,” he silently prayed, “help me to become as neutral as I can. Help me to see things as you see them. Help me to forgive the feelings of anger I am feeling right now. Amen.”
Looking Trish in the eyes, “Trish, do you believe God loves you?”
“Do you believe Jesus lives in your heart?
“Do you believe God loves those people who have, are, and will reject you?”
“Do you believe Jesus Christ lives in their hearts as well?”
“Yes. Now, what are you driving at? I also know that God love us in spite of our evil natures as well. So what is your point?”
“How many times have you said that we are our own worst enemy?” she added.
“A lot,” Greg replied.
“I rest my case.”
“I don’t rest mine ‘cause I’m just getting started. You are your worst enemy at least right now you are but that doesn’t make you evil.”
“You either don’t believe God loves you or you don’t believe Jesus lives in your heart ‘cause if you believed in both of them as you say you do you couldn’t sit there and call yourself evil,” Greg replied.
“How do you figure that?” Trish asked.
“What’s your definition of evil?” Greg asked.
“Following Satan, doing bad things to people, sinning on purpose, fighting against the church, and a whole lot more,” Trish replied, confidently.
“Are you any of those things?”
“Well, no. But somehow I am evil.”
“A simple definition of evil is the absence of a relationship with God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit,” Greg said. “Do you have a relationship with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit?”
“You know I do,” she answered.
“Okay, so you’re not evil then. How about the people you depended upon to be a part of your life, do they not have a relationship with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit?”
“Yes, at least I’m pretty sure they do. On second thought I know they do.”
“Then that means they are not evil either, right?”
Before Greg had a chance to reply, “Good lord, look at the time you are going to be late for work. We’ll bring this up later after things have quieted down for the evening,” she said.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright? You were pretty down there for awhile.”
“I’m okay you gave me some things to think about and I will. I sure am glad you’ve never rejected me.”
“I love you, Trish, maybe not as much as God does but I’ll bet I’m running a close second anyway. I’ll see you after work,” Greg replied heading out the door.
“And don’t forget to call me when you get there so I’ll know we still have a job and not on strike.”
“Will do, love.”
After starting the car, connecting his seat belt and waiting a second or two before putting the car in reverse Greg’s thoughts drifted to his own anger at the frustrating situation at work.
“People are frustrated God, they work and work and get no where. The cost of just getting to work is higher than it’s ever been. Even in our depressed economy company profits are up yet wages are not and the working person’s ability to react to the out of control cost of living is gone.”
Pausing from his prayer to back up and head down the driveway Greg gathered his thoughts about how people from both ends of the spectrum were starving to have God in their life. “God, at first I like, Trish thought my co-workers on both sides of the labor issue were enemies but their not the enemy the enemy is much more devious, much more powerful our greatest foe is the absence of your Spirit in their lives.”
“Lord, but how?”
Greg decided to remain quiet for the rest of the way to work as if waiting for an answer.
Ten minutes later, he pulled into the handicapped place then just before exiting the car he heard a voice say, “Trust. Pray.”
Quickly looking around for the source of the voice, he discovered the parking lot was empty. He also knew the squawk box on the fence didn’t work, “Did you say something, Lord?” he asked aloud.
There was no answer so after several seconds Greg pushed open the gate and walked through.
As Trish moved about the kitchen cleaning the breakfast dishes she began humming the music to Amazing Grace when suddenly the telephone rang. It was Gloria with several prayer calls. After hanging up the phone and writing down the names she headed for the deck off the family room.
Moments later she was sitting in her prayer chair as she affectionately called it. Then looking at the three names she began praying for each one. After several minutes she ended with, “Amen.”
Getting ready to stand up and return to the kitchen suddenly Greg’s voice echoed in her thoughts, “A simple definition of evil is the absence of a relationship with God and Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit,”
Then, “If they’re not evil God than what are they? I needed them and I was told I didn’t count. If they have a relationship with you how could they just brush me aside like they did? I need someone who will be a prayer partner who will not judge me but will be an encourager who will not condemn me. I know Greg will always be here for me but I need someone else and everyone I ask rejects me. Isn’t there anyone I can trust who will not reject me?”
Walking back into the family room Trish heard one word, “Me.”
Stopping instantly and looking around to see if Greg had come back, “Is that you Greg?”
Seconds later, “Is anyone here?”
Only the sounds to be heard were the wind and early morning birds on the bird feeders. Not really sure where the voice came from Trish headed for the kitchen and the dirty breakfast dishes.
Sitting at his desk and staring into a dark computer screen Greg found himself praying the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Suddenly his mind went blank and he couldn’t go any further.
Trying to remember the rest of the prayer, he found himself saying, “My greatest need is Jesus but what the world needs is the God’s kingdom. On second thought all persons need Jesus.”
Several minutes later Greg was reading aloud from his computer screen the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9 – 6:13 ESV)
Three more times Greg read the prayer and each time the words seemed more powerful but something else was happening inside the words were giving him a sense of peace he’d not felt before. It was almost as if he were taking all his anxieties and giving them to God and somehow God was taking them from him.
“Lord,” he began praying, “Somehow I thought you’d lost control that because so many people do not have a relationship with you we were all spiraling downward, and I was helpless to do anything about it. How is it the 52 words I’ve read over and over for years suddenly have so much power?”
Almost instantly, Greg’s eyes were drawn to the first four words of verse 9. “And pray like this,” and then he realized that Jesus wasn’t asking people to pray he was telling them to. But, not only was he telling them how they needed to pray to bring about God’s kingdom as well.
Then like the Lake Freighter coming out of fog he’d seen yesterday while parked at the Blue Water Bridge he began to understand that it was God’s will that the kingdom would come on earth after all it was his kingdom not humanities.
“After all,” he said aloud, “Jesus told people the kingdom of God was near. And Jesus knew if enough people would pray that it would come God would indeed bring it into reality.”
Standing at the sink staring out the window Trish began singing the words to a hymn she’d heard on the radio a couple of days ago, “I am trusting Thee to guide me; Thou alone shalt lead; Every day and hour supplying All my need.”
She started to sing it a second time, “I am trusting Thee…” but couldn’t go any further. “I haven’t trusted you enough Jesus and I’ve come to depend on others, haven’t I?”
After a brief pause, “But I need someone who will talk with to me, someone who will be brutally honest with me at times and like a big old soft Teddy Bear who just listens at other times. I need someone who knows me yet still appreciates me and wants to be around me. I need someone who will pray with me and for me. I thought I found at least one person at church but I didn’t every one was so busy with their own life they had no time for mine. It seems at times that the “me agenda” is stronger than the “others agenda.”
“And I know I’m just as guilty,” she added.
Walking back to the deck and dropping in her prayer chair Trish continued, “Even you had someone close to you, you had twelve of them but who have I got?”
No sooner had she got the words out when, “You have, Greg.”
Without thinking, “But Greg is my husband.”
“So,” she heard.
“My husband?” she replied.
“And the two shall become one,” the mysterious voice answered.
“We’re not on the same level he’s so much more spiritual than I am,” she quickly answered.
“And they’re not?”
“We’re all on different spiritual levels…” Stopping mid sentence it suddenly dawned on her she was alone, “Say, who am I talking to, myself?”
Feeling uncomfortable, she quickly moved back into the family room and locked the patio doors walked over to the television and turned it on. All of a sudden, she remembered something Greg said just before he left for work, “I love you, Trish, maybe not as much as God does but I’ll bet I’m running a close second anyway.”
Sitting quietly Trish questioned herself, “Could marriage be one of the deepest spiritual relationships between two humans?”
Then slowly and silently, she began recalling all of the difficulties she and Greg had faced over their 39 years of marriage and with each experience, she felt spiritually stronger.
Next, she remembered how it seemed as if God had somehow orchestrated their marriage; it was almost as if he knew they would need each other. “I do have a spiritual companion and I’ve had one for 39 years. Lord,” she began praying, “How could I have been so blind? Why couldn’t I see what you had already provided a spiritual companion for me?”
Later both Trish and Greg were sitting on the deck eating supper, “I had quite an experience this morning, Greg. In fact you might say I had a heart to heart with Jesus.”
“Oh, yeah,” he interrupted.
“Know what it was about. Or I should say who it was about?” she asked.
“Cindy, Kathy, Max, and Gloria?” Greg replied.
“Nope they never even came up. It was about you.”
Walking over to the grill to get another hotdog, “You know how something can be right in front of you and not really see it?” she asked.
“Yeah, like the Lord’s Prayer,” Greg answered.
“The Lord’s Prayer, what’s that all about?”
“I’ll tell you when it’s my turn. But I know what you are talking about.”
“Jesus convinced me that you are my spiritual companion that between the two of you I’m pretty well set. And of all the people, I know you’re the one I trust the most. It is going to be somewhat hard for me at first because there are times when you have a tendency to intimidate me but I think I can get past that. My only concern is who do I talk to when I need to talk about you.”
“That’s where a journal comes in handy,” Greg replied.
“Well, I’ll figure something out. But I want you to know that you’ll be my spiritual companion as well. I may not be on the same spiritual level as you but that don’t mean I can’t help you out once in awhile.”
“You’ve always been my spiritual companion, Trish and don’t sell your spirituality short.”
“What was that about the Lord’s Prayer anyway?” Trish asked.
“You know how I’ve felt about the contract and everything else that seems to be flushing the world down the toilet and how helpless we are to stop it?”
“We’ve never really gone in depth but I know what you’re talking about. I heard you say we’re so far from God’s kingdom we can even see the top of it anymore let alone build it. What does the Lord’s Prayer have to do with that?” Trish asked.
“Jesus is telling us it was God’s will that the kingdom be built and at the same time he was telling us we wouldn’t be the ones to build it God would.”
“How’s God going to build it?” Trish asked.
“That’s not really for us to know and even if we did we’d probably not understand. But I know it will be built from our prayers and from our being faithful to Jesus,” Greg replied.
“Pray the kingdom into existence. Now that’s a new approach but what about all the people who don’t believe in the kingdom or in Jesus?”
“Don’t you see that’s the beauty of leaving it up to God to build it because when he does he will draw people to it? Somewhere in the Old Testament I think in Micah the bible talks about people saying to one another of the need to go up to the mountain of the Lord. When we try to build our way we get frustrated like I was getting. But when we let God do it we’re off the hook.”
Pausing for a moment, “I never thought the Lord’s Prayer was so prophetic, so powerful, so freeing as it is. It’s just like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders and the calming of storms at the same time.”
“Listen, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”
“Can’t you feel the power of the Holy Spirit?”
Psalms 55:1-23 ESV
(1) Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
(2) Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, (3) because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
(4) My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
(5) Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
(6) And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; (7) yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah.
(8) I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
(9) Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.
(10) Day and night they go around it on its walls, and iniquity and trouble are within it; (11) ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.
(12) For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him.
(13) But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
(14) We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.
(15) Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
(16) But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.
(17) Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.
(18) He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.
(19) God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah. because they do not change and do not fear God.
(20) My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant.
(21) His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.
(22) Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
(23) But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.
Scripture quotations marked ESV “Are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”