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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

God is My Portion

Lamentations 3:22-24
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

My wife and I used to struggle with this phrase, “the Lord is my portion.” 

The Lord is my portion.  What does that mean?

I heard her pose that question, and it occurred to me that I wondered the same thing.  I had heard singers in worship services testify with significant emotion, “the Lord is my portion.”  What was the worship leader saying, exactly?

I think the answer, at least just a bit of the answer, came to me in my time of prayer this morning.  And it comes in what is quickly becoming one of the scriptures I appreciate most – Lamentations 3.

Lamentation is a series of poems from exile.  These are poems sung by a defeated people.  This is the voice of shame, defeat, guilt, and loss.  Judah, and more specifically Jerusalem, has been overrun by Babylon.  The people are in exile – slaves forced to live far from the land of milk and honey God had promised to Abraham.  They are suffering this indignity due to their own sins.  This has to be the worst part.  All this is happening because God brought it about after they ignored the warning of generations of divinely appointed prophets. 

Now that the punishment has come, from God, all that is left for the chosen people (besides the hard labor imposed by Babylonian taskmasters) is to wail and grieve in defeated songs of lament.  For the most part, that is what is found in Lamentations 1-2.  But then, we come to Lamentations 3:22-24.  How in the middle of such misery, can those who suffer pray words of such appreciation?  From where does this faith come?

In reading it this morning, I thought about the prayer, and the situation in which the prayer was born.  I made it my prayer, practicing Lectio Divina.

First, I read these verses, Lamentations 2:22-24 several times, out loud.  After each reading, I took four intentional, deep, slow breaths. 

Next, I entered into mediation.  I selected one phrase, the Lord is my portion.  I went over and over it in my mind.  My portion.  This is what came to me.  The Lord is all I get.  The Lord is my serving.  When life around me feels chaotic, I get no more solution than the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is with me, carrying me.  When I know I have disappointed people with my words or my temper or my decisions, the Lord is right there.  As low as I feel, the Lord stays with me.  And the Lord is not a passive presence, but is constantly goading, stroking, reminding, uplifting, pushing, catching, whispering, shouting, kicking, holding, hugging; all of this and more.  The Lord is the all the portion need and all I could want.

I thought about N.T. Wright, the English Bible historian.  When he talks about a section of scripture or theology, he says in his British way, the “bit” about this, or the “bit” about that.  The Lord is my “bit.”  I don’t need or want one bit more.

All this revelation came to me a 21st century Bible-reading Christ follower from the poems of lament of a 6th century BC Jew enslaved in Babylon.  That’s how big (and how small) God is.  God is present.  God is my portion. 

After meditation, I prayed allowed, interceding for people I know here and for my family and for people I know in Africa.  I finished up in silence, trying to quiet myself so God could speak some more.  God had already been speaking through the word and through the Spirit’s guidance, showing me my portion.  I finished in silence, creating space so I would be ready to hear God. 

One afterthought is why don’t I do this every day?  But, I leave that afterthought as I gratefully bask in the blessings of doing it today.  Thank you, God, for meeting me and for being my portion.


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