I’ve always loved the Psalms. I know there’s a lot of questionability surrounding the doctrinal value of the book, but there’s something so appealing to me about the visual nature of the language and the intimacy of the tone as our personal relationship with and standing before deity is explored. Anyone who knows me knows that the 137th Psalm and If I forget thee, O Jerusalem’ is never far from my mind. Somehow every word of this Psalm resonates with me.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For they that carried us away captive required of us a song…saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)
I feel that I’ve sat at the banks of my own river many times and wept when I remembered Jerusalem. Not only remembering my own life-altering experiences with the actual city, but weeping when I think of our own promised land with the Lord. Weeping for all of the celestial musings I’ve had that combined all the most glorious potential of life lived at its zenith and then found disappointment in the actual, corrupted experience of this earth. Weeping because I am “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” in the never-ending culture shock of being a stranger in this strange land; feeling acutely that the deepest part of me belongs somewhere else.
I guess what I’m saying is that the Psalms speak my language.
I’ve heard of psalms outside of the Book of’ which sparked my curiosity as to what defines a psalm.’ The word means a sacred song or hymn.’ In musical theatre, a character begins to sing when words alone are insufficient to capture an emotion or experience.
My life seems eternally suspended in that moment where words aren’t sufficient (though it doesn’t stop me from using a lot of them) and I’ve been thinking lately that it might be time to compose a psalm of my own. We each have a sacred song in our hearts, but how many of them ever come out onto paper?
Lately, I’m constantly in the middle of personal crises and dilemmas, which seem to be the type of material worth singing about. I go to my trusty best friends (who double as my parents) to talk it out and the question inevitably arises, “well, what has the Lord said about it?” The question seems to always be posed when I’m in the deepest part of the pits and from that vantage point, with so little light streaming in, the answer always seems to be “nothing.”
Nephi’s experience came to head and catalyzed his own sacred song in 2 Nephi 4:15-35. He defines what we’ve come to refer to as his psalm as “the things of [his] soul.” The verses really humanize a man who seems to otherwise be some shade of perfection in the midst of impossible challenges. But even in his most human moment, Nephi manages to set an example for me. He declares “O wretched man that I am!” and his heart sorrows because of his flesh, but even in the midst of the personal and intimate despair of insecurity and inadequacy, he takes a moment to recognize the gifts he has been given.
“I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support…He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh…he hath heard my cry by day and given my knowledge by visions in the nighttime…O then, if I have seen so great things…why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow…because of mine afflictions?”
This lesson is more complicated than just “an attitude of gratitude.” It’s about adjusting the entire key of your own sacred song. I’m realizing lately that I don’t remember or recognize the revelation I receive because I haven’t let even the little impressions affect my canter. This life is a bitter pill to swallow, it’s important that your psalm doesn’t disregard the pain or omit the moments when you sit down at the rivers of Babylon and weep when you remember Zion. Without exquisite pain, you can hardly appreciate exquisite joy, but O, to know (and acknowledge that you know) in Whom you have trusted!
Listening to the words of the Prophets (both in ancient times and in this past General Conference) leaves me with the desire to be more diligent in noticing and recording my blessings, my strengths, and those persistent thoughts that are buzzing around in my bonnet until the moment I get depressed-then I suddenly have no memory of ever having had any thoughts.
As you write your sacred song upon your heart, or (even better) out on paper—as you render the record of your standing and relationship with deity—remember where the wings of his Spirit have taken you. Perhaps the other answers you are so desperately and impatiently waiting on are incumbent on your ability to recognize and internalize what you’ve already been given. Identify all the ways He has set you up to succeed, and you may discover all the desired mechanisms are in place just waiting for the word from you.