Father Mark, Reflections

The “Pits”

Psalm 143

Prayer sometimes is like a greased watermelon.  It’s difficult to grab onto without it slipping out of your hands.  When we’re feeling good, it’s easy to let prayer go by the wayside and do what I call “coast,” through the day.  When we in the pits, it can be difficult to find the words or the energy to pray, especially if we’re metaphorically up to your neck in a bunch of alligators and can’t find the plug to drain the swamp.   The word for “pit,” literally means “pit” or cistern.  It would not be an unusual occurrence for a person who was at risk to others to be put into a cistern where they could not do any damage.

Verse 7 of Psalm 143 as Hebrew writers often did, use idioms to attempt to express their thoughts and emotional and spiritual state.  Idioms are metaphors and mannerisms of speech that are unique to a culture.  When we’re foreign to a culture, like we are to the Hebrew culture of the Old Testament and Jesus of the Middle East, we struggle to understand the deeper meaning of their speech and misunderstand, especially if we take their idioms literally.  The 16th Century translators of the Bible did not understand the idioms of the languages and so much original meaning was lost, especially when the translations went from Hebrew/Aramaic to Greek to Latin before being translated into Elizabethan English.

“I seek your face,” seeking God’s face is an idiom often used in the Psalms and the Old Testament.  It doesn’t mean “seeing” God or thoughts about God, but “feeling God’s presence.”  When the psalmist pleads to God not to hide his face, he is asking that God would fill him with the Spirit’s presence.  He also prays that nothing he does would lead to God withdrawing his presence.  The writer is panicked that God might withdraw from him.   It is easy to project onto God characteristics of human beings who have abandoned us when have displeased them.   When our thoughts distort our vision and beliefs leaving us in the pit, it is best to quote some supportive scripture until we quiet enough to hear the presence of God say, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31), or Jesus’ words in Matthew 28, “I will be with you always….” 

The “pit” also carries the idiom meaning that when one is in the pit, it describes a heart that is in spiritual poverty and broken.   Having “been there” twice during two “Dark Nights of the Soul” earlier in my life, the emptiness is like living in a barren land.  But the barren experience is necessary so that we can hear the still small voice of the most powerful Being in the universe. 

If you are in the pits now, reach out, listen, have a special person come join you in the pit that has been in their own and knows how to be with you, so that you may hear and receive your Divine Invitation to taste the peace and bliss of Eternity.   

As Gabriel said to Mary, “Fear not,”

Fr. Mark