The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5,6 ESV
Friday afternoon I sat down with a coffee, my notebook and a couple of verses. I chose a phrase from the above to meditate on
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places
and wrote the line followed by a thought on the phrase. Then I rewrote the line followed by another thought on the phrase. I did that fifty times.
When you write and respond to phrase thirty or fifty times, something shifts. You have to abandon expectation around fifteen or twenty and open yourself to looser associations or unexpected connections. You let your mind and heart wander without judgement. I’ve tried this exercise with the phrases Because, I love you and Thank you. When a friend mentioned this approach as a spiritual exercise to exploring a single verse in the Bible, we talked about the necessity of repetition to rooting ourselves firmly in our faith. There are prayers and rituals, but there is also the need to say truth more than once. And so I have stretches when I reread a single book of Bible or return to a couple of chapters to tell myself again what I need to hear for the day.
I was a senior in college when I first read The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places (NIV) and it meant something to me. In the years since, God has brought that verse to mind as a promise. After last week, I returned to Psalm 16. Perhaps guessing it’s a go-to for fast assurance, a little spirit pep talk about contentment. But when I spent an hour responding to the single phrase, more came: prayer and repentance. This life is not about my happiness but about God’s glory. God gives great joy and walks us through great sorrow. But to suppose my faith inoculates me against unpleasant places, people and situations is wrong. There’s a leap I have to make to say The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places and that leap is more trust in God. I don’t lie about where I am here on earth, but I yield to God’s sovereignty.
Right now, where I am is a difficult place to live. For me. So to spend time rewriting The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places was a small fight. I heard the line fifty times. I saw it in my own handwriting fifty times. There is no “maybe” or “sometimes” that opens the phrase. Instead the line is declarative. I humble myself to God’s mercy and authority. My complaints do not negate his love. If I trust more (Spirit, help me), then I open to this understanding: where I am is a pleasant place, not for the soil or water or air itself, but for the God who knows me and draws lines in the sand and says Even here.
I will think about this for a while yet.