This past week there was a fair amount of good news out of the Gulf. The oil well appears to have been successfully capped, the oil spill itself seems to have largely dissipated and we are told 75% of the oil has been cleaned up. If any or all of that is true it is good news indeed.
But there are many skeptics. A friend recently traveled to Louisiana and reports that many of the fishermen, restaurant owners and others there are very doubtful about it all. Certainly the marshes are still polluted, many of the shrimp boats aren't fishing and the tourists haven't come back.
So what are we to make of it all? What am I to make of it all? I certainly want to celebrate any good news and progress in the clean-up. Thousands have invested their time and energy in the effort. I want to acknowledge their commitment and hard work. It is worthy of praise! Gratitude is important!
But I don't want to lose sight of what has happened here. I don't want it to be swept under the rug--I want it to be remembered so that we can work to prevent it from happening again! There are things to be lamented! Human and animal lives lost. Ecosystems destroyed. Oil wasted. Jobs gone. It is worthy of tears! Mourning is important!
I am reminded in all this of the Book of Psalms--that collection of ancient Hebrew poetry that has songs of thanksgiving nestled cheek-by-jowl with the wailings of those who have lost much! It is uncomfortable having seemingly contradictory emotions at one and the same time. But life often works that way. And the Psalms provide a way to express those thoughts, those emotions. The psalms provide a template for prayer in times such as these. As scholar Walter Bruggemann writes: "In season and out of season, generation after generation, faithful women and men turn to the Psalms as a most helpful resource for conversation with God about things that matter most." (The Message of the Psalms, 15)
In times like these I am grateful for Psalm 30, that promises God will turn "mourning into dancing." And I take great comfort in the many extremes of emotion expressed in Psalm 139. I can be angry and hopeful at the same time. I can be simultaneously happy and sad. And God will be there. For, as the psalmist says, "even if I take the wings of the morning, and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me."
Yes, these are days filled with environmental highs and lows, but through it all, God travels with us. Such is the promise of the Book of Psalms.
(Photo Credit: Mike Baird, www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/2678310549/)