‘I am twisted, I am all bent.’

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew this morning, I was reminded of Christ’s early-career admonishes not to tell anyone who He is or what He has done: upon healing the leper, He said, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” He later healed to blind men, but warned them not to tell anyone about it. In the Gospel of Mark “He sternly warned [the unclean spirits] that they should not make Him known.” The instances in which Christ concealed things are numerous. These passages really speak to me lately, although I’m not sure entirely why. Keeping a blog of one’s spiritual development is not exactly an exercise in humility, and writing about one’s discovery of spiritual silence is kind of a practice in hypocrisy. But that’s where I am: I’m fasting, I’m praying, stuff is happening, but I don’t have a lot to say about it right now.

I did want to share from something I read yesterday. This is Robert Alter’s extremely moving translation of Psalm 38:

A David psalm, to call to mind.
Lord, do not rebuke me in your fury
nor chastise me in Your wrath.
For Your arrows have come down upon me,
and upon me has come down Your hand.
There is no whole place in my flesh through Your rage,
no soundness in my limbs through my offense.
For my crimes have welled over my head,
like a heavy burden, too heavy for me.
My sores make a stench, have festered
through my folly.
I am twisted, I am all bent.
All day long I go about gloomy.
For my innards are filled with burning
and there is no whole place in my flesh.
I grow numb and am utterly crushed.
I roar from my heart’s churning.
O Master, before You is all my desire
and my sighs are not hidden from You.
My heart spins around, my strength forsakes me,
and the light of my eyes, too, is gone from me.
My friends and companions stand off from my plight
and my kinsmen stand far away.
They lay snares, who seek my life and want my harm.
They speak lies, deceit utter all day long.
But like the deaf i do not hear,
and like the mute whose mouth will not open.
And I become like a man who does not hear
and has no rebuke in his mouth.
For in You, O LORD, I have hoped.
You will answer, O Master, my God.
For I thought, “Lest they rejoice over me,
when my foot slips, vaunt over me.”
For I am ripe for stumbling
and my pain is before me always.
For my crime I shall tell,
I dread my offense.
And my wanton enemies grow many,
my unprovoked foes abound.
And those who pay back good with evil
thwart me for pursuing good.
Do not forsake me, LORD.
My God, do not stay far from me.
Hasten to my help,
O Master of my rescue.

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