Psalms

My Bones Turn to Powder

Lent 1A Psalm 32 (The Message)

1 Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start,
      your slate's wiped clean.

2 Count yourself lucky—
      God holds nothing against you
      and you're holding nothing back from him.

3 When I kept it all inside,
      my bones turned to powder,
      my words became daylong groans.

4 The pressure never let up;
      all the juices of my life dried up.

5 Then I let it all out;
      I said, "I'll make a clean breast of my failures to God."

   Suddenly the pressure was gone—
      my guilt dissolved,
      my sin disappeared.

6 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
      when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
      we'll be on high ground, untouched.

7 God's my island hideaway,
      keeps danger far from the shore,
      throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

8 Let me give you some good advice;
      I'm looking you in the eye
      and giving it to you straight:

9 "Don't be ornery like a horse or mule
      that needs bit and bridle
      to stay on track."

10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
      God-affirmers find themselves loved
      every time they turn around.

11 Celebrate God.
      Sing together—everyone!
      All you honest hearts, raise the roof!

I don't love the way Eugene Peterson adapts the Psalms, because they lose their poetry, but every now and then some turn of phrase in his versions grabs me. That happened today. In verse 3.

"When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans."

Amen to that. "My bones turned to powder." There is no more debilitating feeling than a bone-powdering disconnection from God.

When I was a little girl of 5, I had a fever high enough that I became entertainingly verbal about how it felt to be so sick, and I coined a phrase that would be remembered through the years by my mother. "Mommy," I said, "I feel flexible." I felt bone-melted, unable to get my legs under me, and those bones turned to powder would be similarly weak, unable to support life, real life.

To be spiritually de-boned is to flounder, to flop, to lie helpless, and all this leads to the groaning the Psalmists employed often.

It's nothing new to feel this way. But it is a fresh experience, every time I have it, to feel the relief of really and truly giving something over to God. Suddenly I have bones again, and I can walk through the consequences of whatever the problem might be, knowing I am not alone.

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