the baby and the bathwater

Lament: How Long?
January 21, 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As you probably know by now, I have two daughters. And in many ways they are very different personalities. But there is one thing that they seem to have totally in common. There is one situation in life that they use exactly the same words almost without fail. And every time they use the words I feel my blood pressure rising.

It happens almost without fail every time we get into the car and set off on a journey as a family. And the words are repeated with a regularity that is utterly astounding.

The thing is, that I know I used the same words when I was young. And so did my wife. And I’m sure that we drove our parents mad as well. And I’m also pretty sure that one day our two daughters will be driven to the edge of despair by their children in exactly the same way.

The words seem to be handed down from generation to generation. It’s like we are pre-programmed with them.

And those words?

‘How long until we get there?’

Now basically, our children are quite good in the car. They get very silly sometimes, and get a little bit noisy quite often. But they travel quite well, and apart from one stressful trip to new wine a couple of years back (which, my wife reminds me was also typified by a lot of shouting from me), neither of them have been sick. And in fact things have got even better recently since we gave them each an ipod shuffle for Christmas. (provided they both don’t sing along at once to completely different tracks)

But even though they are quite good at travel, they don’t love it, and at regular intervals we get those immortal words ‘how long until we get there?’

In the Psalms we find that expression often too. Well, the ‘How Long’ part anyway. The psalmist may have also used the ‘how long until we get there’ line as well, but I’m guessing that such times weren’t considered worthy of recording for the benefit of future generations. But in most of the cases actually recorded, the psalmist is essentially asking of God ‘How long until You act?’ Whether that’s in showing His face (Psalms 13 and 89), in acting against wickedness or injustice (Psalms 94, 119), in stopping is anger (79) or in stopping those that seem to be against the psalmist himself (35)

When ever I have read these passages in the past, I have felt that in the main, the psalmist is somewhat resigned to his fate, generally praising along the way, but resigned. But as I’ve been reading them again recently, I’ve been sensing something else.

Maybe, just maybe, behind the often repeated ‘How Long?’ is not a complaint, but a prayer.

Maybe the ‘How Long?’ is not a mournful, resigned sob, but an intentional cry.

Maybe the psalmist is turning the apparent inactivity of God into a flexing of His faith-muscles.

You see, although we seem to have to live with pain, suffering and disappointment on this earth, we also know that we are called to engage ourselves in bringing about the growth of God’s kingdom on this earth. Because, although it could all happen without us, it seems that it won’t all happen without us. God has chosen us as co-workers in bringing about change.

And once again, I have to say that I am not sure that the church needs more songs of lament, but it certainly needs more songs that help us engage and pray for change, to plead for God to break through in power, to cry out to Him for the spring rain of His presence.


3 Comments so far
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Nice one Neil!

Comment by Jon

I tried basing my response to this very question from my children on your inspired posting…

The looked blankly at me and said ‘thanks Dad, so how long will it take?’…

I had to laugh…

Comment by Andy

Well your friends with their fancy persuasions
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
Cos I aint quite as dumb as I seem

Comment by St

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