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The pits

I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. Psalm 102. 6-7

In this next Penitential Psalm, quotations from other Psalms mix with avian imagery to create a picture of loneliness and despair. The Hebrew word translated here as "desert owl" actually refers to a creature that is unclean, more akin to a vulture. The "bird alone on a roof" may be a sparrow, more familiar to us as one that swoops into our gardens in squadrons. But this one has been left behind, all alone on a rooftop.

That is how the Psalmist feels, abandoned and alone, unclean amid the ruins. You may be feeling like that. The tragic irony is that you are almost certainly not alone in your misery. Think of all our fellow believers that we know about, in desperate situations all over the world - on account of war, persecution and natural disasters. Add them to the thousands, perhaps millions, of hidden victims of abuse, depression, addiction and poverty.

By half way it seems as if the Psalmist multiplies their agony by blaming their predicament on God. Yet to whom else can they turn? Does God willingly consign us to misery? Or is God incapable of intervening on behalf of his suffering people? One cannot deny that it sometimes feels like that. But is it the truth, or is there more to come...?



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