Now that I have more free time and my son is nearly grown, I want to try again. My plan is to use this daily guide and an ancient spiritual practice called lectio divina. Lectio divina means "sacred reading." To practice it, first you center yourself and then read the text slowly, listening for a word or phrase that calls to you.
Then you meditate, repeating the word or phrase over and over, contemplating what it means in light of your life at that moment. You can hold up a problem or question, repeat that word or phrase over it, and see what happens. You can return to the text and read it all the way through again, if you like, to recall the context of that word or phrase. You may contemplate what it may be calling you to do or to become. Here's a nice description of the practice - http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Catholic/2000/08/How-To-Practice-Lectio-Divina.aspx
Today's reading from the guide is Psalm 146. The phrase that grabbed me was "God lifts up those who are bowed down." It is one of several verses about how God helps those in need - prisoners, orphans and widows. If you were looking at it globally you could see this phrase as being about justice.
However, since lectio divina is about how a word or phrase touches you personally and spiritually, today it speaks to me of healing from spiritual oppression. At times our spirits are brought low. We feel discouraged, our self-esteem in disrepair, perhaps we even sink into despair. Sometimes our spirits are so low it can feel as though they will never rise again.
In this light, "God lifts up those who are bowed down." sounds hopeful. It suggests we do not need to do that work ourselves. This is good news because when we are bowed down we usually lack the spiritual strength to do so. When that's the case, trying to lift ourselves up does not work so well, in my experience.
At other times when we are spiritually weak we may puff ourselves up in a rather swaggering or boastful way. When we do this we appear to veer radically from humbled or humiliated to proud or vain. This seems false to me; it fails to ring true. I think boastfulness based on spiritual weakness merely masks a lack of self-esteem.
"God lifts up those who are bowed down." For me, the good news in the phrase is that whatever feels bowed down in us can be lifted up, and that we do not have to do that heavy lifting ourselves. If we are willing and open Spirit can do that for us, often through people who reflect our true worth back to us. All we have to do is listen, and give credence to those who can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves in our bowed- down state. We can help by nurturing and strengthening ourselves spiritually.
As a minister these words suggest that lifting up others who are spiritually bowed down is Spirit's work, not mine. I do not have to do that heavy lifting in that case either. If I think I can, perhaps I am straying into the error of pride. If I think I must then I am taking on too much and will most likely become resentful, spiritually weak. It is not for me to lift others up. However, Spirit can perhaps work through me as I mirror their worth back to them. If they are open and willing, I can perhaps help them find ways to nurture themselves spiritually so they can become stronger.
Over time perhaps we who minister to others can reflect how they are being lifted up. Sometimes this happens so slowly it's hard to perceive from inside. We can rejoice with them when once again they stand as God intends them to - not arrogant or angry, but spiritually whole, sound, and strong. That is the last meaning I hear today in these words from Psalm 146. Spirit does not want us to be bowed down in oppression, but rather to be lifted up in dignity. So may it be.