One sentence encapsulates my first impression of today’s scripture: Wow, they sound desperate!
The whole of Psalm 80 is part lament, part apology, and part appeal for restoration. The psalmist is scrambling for the clarity of days gone by. The mood connotes feelings of staggering around in darkness, grabbing and grasping for any foothold or handle with enough strength to bear the weight of one who needs to be lifted up from a wayward path. The writer is utterly blinded and disoriented by the desperation of their situation. Images of instability, insecurity, and uprootedness abound. Where could one possibly find the light of hope that comes with restoration in such a bleak and dismal season? The psalmist is convinced that they can survive this season, get on the right path, and make it through to restoration, if God will just shine God’s face on them. In the words of singer songwriter, John Mayer, “Just keep them where the light is.”
Our house has a patio garden that is lush and beautiful most of the year. We have so many plants that it gets crowded and all the shades of green blend into a verdant panel of easy breezy life. With so many plants, it is understandable that one might slip through the cracks. Literally. This is exactly what happened last year to one of our aloe plants.
In all the blended breeziness, one of our aloes fell off the railing and rolled under the porch. I did not notice it was missing until I began the process of bringing the plants into the house before the first frost. Then, I saw it. There she lay, sallow and limp in the dark overhang of the porch floor. Potting soil spilled from the overturned and broken pot and had long since been flattened and integrated with the earth below. The roots and leaves of the aloe lay cold, bruised, exposed, and suffocating in darkness.
I bent low and with tenderness gathered her up with both hands. Dusting debris from her roots and leaves, I laid her on the table inside. I pruned back the parts of her that had already died and retrieved a new pot. After gently packing soil around her withered roots and dripping in just enough water for her drink but not drown, I propped her up on every leaning side. Then, lastly and most importantly, I put her in the brightest windowsill of the house. There she could absorb all the light the sun had to offer on the shortest days of the year. I knew she would survive, that her life would be rooted and grounded again, that she would learn to breathe and grow, if I just kept her where the light is.
As a cold, dark season descends upon us, we may feel desperate, lost, uprooted, and blind. But our hope is in Jesus, the Light of the World, who comes to seek and save that which is lost.
When day cedes power to night
When darkness outlasts the light
When blindness occludes the path which is right
O God, Your light alone restores my sight.