There is a season for everything, a time for everything under heaven.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1
We must adapt ourselves to the newness of God’s words. Our God is not a God of habits, he is a God of surprises.
Pope Francis, morning meditation, June 29, 2014
Iwas finally back to church after a long hiatus due to Covid and a very ill husband who never really recovered from the virus; he died in October 2022. I had noticed in the parish bulletin that an adult-ed class entitled “Praying with the Bible” was being offered in the spring of 2023. It sounded interesting, but I wondered if I was ready for parish involvement. I thought about it, prayed about it, and decided to just run with it. It was being moderated by the new assistant pastor, and I did not know him at all. Perhaps that worked for me as a totally new beginning.
For the record, my husband and I had been parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes for sixty years, and always involved in parish activities. Our involvement tapered off a bit as we got older and were called on for babysitting our grandchildren. Then Covid struck and it all went downhill. So when I saw this eight-week course advertised, I decided to sign on. It was my first time back to parish activities in several months, but I felt I needed to reenter the world.
April 2023 arrived quickly. The class numbered about 70 people. There was a guidebook involved and we gathered in groups of eight or ten. We watched a video which was wonderful, then went to our notebooks and followed the guidance as presented. There was daily “homework,” which our instructor, Father Charles, called “holy work.” How true!
All was going well, and I was really enjoying the class. Then we got to one particular assignment which I felt was very different, even challenging. The assignment was to read Psalm 51—read it again, then again. Then came the caveat: we were then to write our own version of the psalm. I had always loved the psalms, but did not feel up to incorporating my thoughts into a classic piece of poetry. I surely did not feel up to competing with King David.
After much thought, I decided to trust the process and do the assignment. Once I started writing, using King David’s words (or whoever wrote this particular piece) as a guide, I wrote my own version. Once I started writing the words and the feelings just flowed. I felt inspired. Who could believe it? This exercise enabled me to document my thoughts and feelings about the loss of my husband of 63 years just a few months before; the grief was still raw. It was a wonderful exercise, and I am so grateful that I chose to follow the professionals in this area, trusting the program. Our God truly is a God of surprises.
I hope you like my Psalm 51.
(“Miserere”; Latin for “Have mercy on me, O God”)
Have mercy on me O God, in your goodness,
in your great tenderness wipe away my faults;
wash me clean of my guilt,
purify me from my sin.
Yahweh, you love sincerity of heart,
teach me the secrets of wisdom.
Purify me until I am clean;
wash me until I am whiter than snow.
Yahweh, you know all things, and you know my heart is broken, shattered.
How can I go on without the love of my life?
He meant everything to me and now that he is gone, I feel like half a person.
His goodness strengthened me, and now I feel that strength fading away.
Help me, O God, to be strong.
Pour your love, strength, and tenderness over me like a libation.
Don’t let my sins prevent you from offering me solace.
Even though my heart is broken and my spirit sagging.
I love you, O God, with all my remaining strength.
Hover over me and lend me your support.
The burden of being a widow is immense.
It wants to crush me and steal my spirit away.
Refresh me, O God.
He was a joy in my life. Help me to always remember his love for me.
Such love reminded me of your love for me.
How blessed I have been! Help to always remember to be grateful.
Please, O God, I beg you to heal the shattered shards of my heart.
Make me whole again.
Sacrifice gives you no pleasure,
were I to offer holocaust, you would not have it.
My sacrifice is this broken spirit,
you will not scorn this crushed and broken heart.
I want to go forward with joy but sometimes my leaden feet don’t want to move.
The pain of loss weighs me down.
Cover me with your mercy and save me from my grief.
I don’t want to be a mournful, sad, old woman.
I want to reflect your goodness and your love for me,
but I need your strength to sing your praises.
You have never failed me in the past
and I know you won’t fail me now.
Thank you, O God. ♦
Anne Kerrigan is a registered nurse, mother of five, and grandmother of nine. She also has a master’s degree in theology and is the winner of the Australasian Religious Press Association Silver Award in Excellence for “Best Faith Reflection.” She is in the process of writing her memoir. She can be reached at email@example.com.