Imagining Psalm 27 during the Coronavirus Crisis

– By Jonathan Kopke.

Don’t you sometimes wish you could pull a blanket over your head and not come out until the whole coronavirus pandemic is over?  When you’ve read one story too many about what it’s like to struggle for breath when the virus strikes.  When you’ve been scrupulous for weeks about staying six feet away from other people, and then a new study says maybe that should have been twenty-six feet.  Or when calls to mental health hotlines have surged by nearly 900%, don’t you just want to go somewhere and hide? 

Remarkably, God says that’s not a bad idea at all.  Look at what’s written in Psalm 27: “God will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.[1]

Okay, that’s all very nice, but just how are we supposed to go about letting God hide us? 

I suppose there are saints who can start by clearing everything else from their minds, but when I try to empty my mind, nature abhors a vacuum, and what rushes in to fill the void is nothing but worries and deadlines and regrets.  To pilfer a line from Mark Twain, “When the snakes are asleep, the rats are on deck, and when the rats turn in, the snakes come on watch.”  So I’ve never figured out how to empty my mind.  The best I’ve ever been able to do is to fill it with something else.  As the Bible says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things..”[2]  And it seems to me that one powerful way of doing that is by using our imaginations.

When a little girl dresses up in a white lab coat and pretends to be Dr. Amy Acton issuing updates from the Ohio Department of Health, that’s considered cute, but if a grown man pretends that God is hiding him, I suppose that’s considered crazy.  And yet, Jesus said that if we’re going to enter the Kingdom of God at all, we’ll have to do it like little children.  So at the risk of letting it get out that I’m crazy, or at least childish, I’ll admit to one example of imagination that’s helped me hide in God:  Once when I was still in elementary school, there was a springtime Monday when my mother hung her laundry outside for the first time of the season.  For no good reason, I sprawled out in a sunny spot under the clotheslines, and when the sun was too bright in my face, I pulled my mother’s wicker laundry basket over me.  I’m sure I wasn’t hidden, but I felt hidden.  I felt protected.  I felt comforted.  I remember that I’d been feeling sick that day, and under that basket, I felt healed.  And sixty years later, I’ve never forgotten those moments.  So even now, sometimes when I’m rattled, I can lie down by myself and imagine that I’m inviting God to hide me under that old laundry basket. 

How do you speak to a person you’re hiding with?  Of course, you whisper.  So I whisper to God something like the words of the song: “You are my hiding place.  You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance.  Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.”  And there in my imagination, God himself meets me with his protection, his comfort, and his healing. I’m certainly not suggesting that anybody else should try to encounter God under an imaginary laundry basket.  But maybe I’m not the only one who can invite God into an old memory where it’s easier to enjoy his peace that “surpasses all understanding.”[3]  In our own unique ways, we can all experience the promise: “God will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.1


QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • When you were a child, what was your safe place or hiding place you went to when you were sad, or mad, or lonely, or afraid.   If you don’t mind sharing, post your response in the comments below. 
  • Read Psalm 27:1.  Now turn it around, as if God is asking you, “Whom do you fear?  Of what are you afraid?”  How would you answer God?  Now read Psalm 27:1-5 as if God is speaking those words to you. 
  • Imagine you are in your childhood hiding place and listen to this version of the song Jon mentioned, You Are My Hiding Place.    End it by saying, “I am safe with you.” 

[1] Psalm 27:5 nrs

[2] Philippians 4:8 nrs

[3] Philippians 4:7 nrs

3 Comments

  1. In my grade school days, my safe place or hiding place was just riding my bike around the neighborhood and just forgetting about everything. In my teens, retreat to my bedroom, put on headphones and listen to music.

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