Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from
those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off? Why
must I walk about mournfully because of the oppression of the enemy?
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me
to your holy hill and to your dwelling. (Psalm 43:1-3, NRSV — This is one of the alternate texts for
confusing, even impossible. I remember being 8 years old, the shortest girl in
the 3rd grade, the one the other girls teased, the one who got poor marks for
self-control on the behavior page of the report card because I could not figure
out how to deal with a bully.
It's a sad truth that a clever bully can
make the victim look like the aggressor. I didn't understand that as a little
girl; what little girl does? I suffered and felt left out or confused about the
treatment I received; sometimes I lost my temper, pushed beyond the limits of
It did not help that we had a very young teacher,
21 years old, a recent graduate of a private college for young ladies, assigned
to teach 19 3rd-grade girls. We led her a merry chase. We climbed out the window
of our first floor classroom and took off for the paths on the wooded edge of
the campus. I went along with it because when I misbehaved with the group, I
thought I might become part of them.
But I wasn't really. And at home
every afternoon I wondered why?
People told me later, "You're too
sensitive." I've grappled with that sensitivity all my life. It works well for a
pastor, most of the time, though there are moments when a thicker skin might
suit me better.
What makes a people ungodly? The psalmist complains
against those who are deceitful and unjust, and that definition certainly fits
my understanding. It has less to do with the words we use to name God or the way
we practice our religion and more to do with qualities of character. After all,
a person can go to church every week and still not be kind or truthful. God
wants more from us. God wants more.