Befriending Faithfulness

 (from Eric)

I don't know how many times I've read Psalm 37, but I was struck anew by one aspect of it yesterday:

"Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass and with like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:1-4

The psalm continues in the same vein for a total of 40 verses, with the same recurring juxtaposition which makes it sound more like Proverbs than any other Psalm that I know.  Part 1: "Don't be anxious about evil; it won't endure." Part 2: "Instead, trust in the Lord and his ways.  That's what endures." Then repeat, in case you missed the last 8 versions.  Some things are worth repeating.

And sure enough, for all of the repetition, I still forget to "fret not" the evil of the world.  I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in that regard.  Our world fairly teems with fretting.

It seems like the kind of exhortation that might sink deeper into our broken hearts if the negative command (don't be anxious!) is coupled with the corresponding positive command to fill the void (instead, do this!).  So what is that positive command?  Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

It's a fun mind game for me to imagine what word I would have thought would follow "befriend" if I had to complete the sentence like some kind of google predictor.  The idea of befriending an abstract idea is interesting enough by itself but what follows?  Befriend...what?  Righteousness?  Obedience?  The community of God?  Instead the word is faithfulness.  Befriend faithfulness.  Get to really deeply know sticking-to-it.  Being faithful at what?  The psalm doesn't explicitly say, but given that is follows "trust in the Lord and do good", I read it as "remain faithful to that which the Lord has asked you to do."

What does all this say to us?  It calls us to remain faithful to what we are called to, even when it is small.  Even when, and perhaps especially when, it does not seem to be producing the desired results in the timeframe that we expected or desired.  It ultimately means being more concerned about faithfulness in the way we walk the individual steps of the journey, resting in a knowledge that the final outcome rests in hands larger than our own.  This would be true of work, education, parenting, friendships.  Follow Jesus faithfully in the next step that is before you.

Other translations say "farm faithfulness" or "cultivate faithfulness."  All of this is very consistent with the Bible's repetitive use of agrarian images.  The farmer plants when it is time to plant; waters when it is time to water; harvests when the time comes.  Faithful to each day's need.  Fret not, o farmer, the harvest, when we are still planting.  Plant faithfully.  The outcome is ultimately something more mysterious than all your planning and machinations.

It's worth recognizing just how counter-cultural this giving up of control is.  Everything in our society screams against it.  To give an example, I never pass up a chance to jibe at my stateside family's attachment to weather prediction.  Multiple apps are consulted.  Plans are made.  Based on information that as far as I can tell, is wrong quite often and everyone knows it.  But such is our desire to control something that surrounds us every day and remains defiantly mysterious.

Where do we find the strength to yield control in favor of befriending faithfulness?  In trusting the promise of the Lord.  I think we would all be more okay with this if the timeline was shorter.  Verse 10: In just a little while, the wicked will be no more.  My first thought is the following humorously cynical meme (overlay text added by me):

The cynical humor is that we drum up some kind of hope or expectation, for which we really have no reason.  Faithfulness and trust requires an object.  Christian faith speaks of a very good reason to be faithful, which is God's goodness, manifest to us all in a thousand different ways, but most clearly in his own sacrifice for us on the cross.  Yes, our idea of timing is dramatically different from his, and the outcomes we are serving may indeed be long after our lifetime or far beyond our scope of understanding.  But we befriend faithfulness to him because he was first faithful to us.


Does Kibuye need to hear this?

Even more than usual, I think.  In addition to the difficulties that we always face, and those which have touched the globe in the past 18 months, this season is a great period of transition.  People coming and going, roles changing.  Work moves forward, but not maybe at the same pace that we had made at various times in the past.  Expectations are always high, and it's currently harder than normal to meet them.

Trust in the Lord and do good.  Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Do the daily work that is all your heavenly Father has ever required of you.  Be faithful in the way, and trust that the end is held by resurrected and now undying hands.

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