The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

Deep calls to deep

If there was ever a good place to have a meltdown, it has to be in the shower. It’s usually private, you’re alone with your thoughts, and because the water is already flowing the tears come easier somehow. At the least, the fact you’re having a good cry is a good reason to stay there a little longer, and, let’s be honest, any reason will do.

It’s in those moments that Psalm 42:7 often comes to my mind

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

However great your water pressure is, you’re never literally experiencing the desperate flooding the psalmist describes, but sometimes, in your heart, you are.

One of the best things about the Book of Psalms is that it covers the full range of human emotions, and it presents every one before God. The biblical practice of lament perhaps isn’t as popular as it should be in our corporate worship settings, but the Psalms show us how to enter into all those messy feelings (even the really ugly I-want-to-smash-their-babies-on-the-rocks ones – see Psalm 137:9) and how to speak those feelings to God. And He’s big enough to handle them; it’s just one more way in which we don’t need to clean ourselves up to be received by Him.

In Psalm 42 the psalmist describes being totally overwhelmed by water: unable to stand under a waterfall torrent, adrift in the deepest depths of the seas, all footing lost and soon to be submerged. Go Google the trailer for the 2000 movie The Perfect Storm if you want to pick up the vibe.

But more than just your worst watery nightmare, these deep waters symbolise throughout Scripture the profound catastrophes of life – the unknowable and uncontrollable chaos (compare Ps 93:3-5; 69:1, 14-15; Job 7:12, 38:8-13).

We each face our own, and no sanitised #soblessed Christianity can skip over that.

There’s another reading of Psalm 42:7 that I love. The “deep” that calls to “deep” is the depth of our need meeting the depth of His love.

The deep of man’s need calleth unto the deep of God’s fulness; and the deep of God’s fulness calleth unto the deep of man’s need. Between our emptiness and His all-sufficiency there is a great gulf. . . . Deep calleth unto deep. The deep mercy of God needs our emptiness, into which it might pour itself. . . . Nothing can fully meet the depth of our need but the depth of His Almighty fulness

Smith, James and Lee, Robert, Handfuls on Purpose for Christian Workers and Bible Students, Eerdmans, 1971, vol. 8, p. 11.

It’s from this angle that Brian Simmons comes up with his Passion Translation of Psalm 42:7,

My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of your love.

Breath that one in.

A few times.

Slowly.

There is something of the depth of His love that I couldn’t experience outside of a season of deep need. There is a tenderness that I couldn’t experience in my times of strength. It’s only in weakness and need that these depths of love are unlocked and received in the deep places of our own hearts.

Yet still we strive to avoid and ignore every moment of pain and weakness. I’m not suggesting we seek them out in some kind of masochistic spirituality, but when they inevitably occur, do we give them space? Do we give them voice? Or do we stuff them down and gloss them over, polishing our image?

Faith isn’t always reaching for more, sometimes it involves sitting with what is. We might be destined for the Promised Land, but in the midst of the Wilderness there’s no point pretending that we’re already there.

Wilderness, then, is the place where we are face to face with danger and promise. And that is an educational situation for the people of God. When danger and promise come together to us, it is called crisis. The Bible does not simply speak of danger. If it did so, the biblical faith would be reduced to a ‘protection-from-danger-religion’. The Bible does not simply speak about promise. If it did so, the biblical faith would be reduced to a ‘happy-ending-religion’. The Bible speaks about a crisis situation, co-existence of danger and promise – wilderness – and there God teaches man. In the wilderness we are called to go beyond ‘protection-from-danger-religion’ and ‘happy-ending-religion’. There we are called to ‘trust’ in God.

Koyama, Kōsuke. Three Mile an Hour God. London: SCM, 1979, 4.

This life we live waiting for resurrection, is the wilderness East of Eden, but even here, our God finds us and makes us His own.

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