Scripture: Psalm 102
Key verses: (6-7)
6 I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
Reflection: The Psalmist is not having a good day. He greets it with a plea to God to listen to his call of distress. He sets out his lament, cataloguing his desperation. His bones burn, his heart is stricken and withered like grass. He cannot eat his bread. His enemies taunt him. He groans loudly, eats ashes like bread, and mingles tears with his drink. The Psalm eventually turns to trust in God, as so many Psalms do. With a decisive shift in verse 12, the Psalmist says, “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations.” He goes on to set forth the case for trusting God, much as he has just listed his troubles.
What interests me are the verses in the middle of the complaints, where he says he feels like a lonely bird on a housetop. He is like an owl in the wilderness. I picture one small feathered creature, all alone, who looks around from a high vantage point. An owl sees in the dark. Lonely birds on housetops sing by themselves. The Psalmist, even in his dark despair, can see God at work. He can’t help but sing, even when no one else around him would sing in his situation.
It makes me think of Emily Dickinson.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
May we too look around like an owl in the dark wilderness. May we listen for the song of hope. May we trust that God endures. That is what will enable us to move from despair in our own wildernesses to praise of the One who holds all things.
Prayer: Lord, teach me to look and listen for you. Help me hope and trust and sing. In the name of Christ, for whom we all wait. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].