"The Lord hears the cry of the poor...." When you hear these words sung in worship or written in Scripture, who are the "poor" to you? Are they the poverty stricken? the homeless? the seriously mentally ill? Are they you? Our culture seems to put the emphasis of the term "poor" on the impoverished child whose tenuous living conditions and lack of healthy food and nurturing love have left them vulnerable and easily manipulated in seeking out their identities. They are poor and their poverty speaks to the sinful nature of many but in ways this differs from the poor of the psalmist. In the psalms the poor is the psalmist himself. It is he/she who is reaching out to God for comfort and relief of real life terrors including that of spiritual darkness presenting itself in the forms of weariness, or melancholy, or blindness, bitterness, and the fear of the viciousness of others. In our culture today, who are the poor? I have worked with the Midwestern American poor and have seen the effects of unemployment, addictions, illness, and sloth. I have rejoiced with their successes and sat with them in the silent despair of their shame. The poor called me forth into ministry and gave me the experience and knowledge to write about them and their "situations" but they are not the only poor that I have encountered. I now see another group of poor congealing and struggling to lift their eyes to heaven for relief and that is the poor of those who have been swept up into the tidal wave of continued experience. These are the bored, the restless, the zoned, the ones who dream of "getting away from it all" but can't help but bring it "all" with them when they finally are able to go. They stop "seeing" and "hearing" their loved ones and their neighbors but focus on the "reality" of others whose sad, self-focused lives are watched not to educate and nurture but to be exploited and entertain (I write this and cannot help but see the resemblance to the Roman Colliseum and all of its activities). Time begins to be seen as a weapon of destruction. Silence and reflection as a punishment. The call to connect with land, water, air and sun only a means for detached enjoyment. All of it leading to the poverty of spirit; to the hunger of the soul and the loss of identity leading to discomfort of body and mood...restlessness, anxiety, depression, grief, dissatisfaction with life and lack of energy, contentment, comfort, and peace. All ready to go from being the healthy to the ill in the midst of a lifetime.
Where is God's mercy today for these poor in spirit? How does His Spirit continue to try to console in this age? St. Augustine's wisdom was that we will always be restless unless we turn to God and rest in His will, His creation. This brings to mine Jesus' question for the disabled man by the side of the pool when He asked "Do you want to be healed?" This man sat waiting for assistance. He did not respond as one who is creative and able to reach out to those around him. I think this question, once again. should be asked of all who suffer the effects of this addiction to experience so that the clarification of the answer can help to draw them forth from their zombie-like existence. Life is here. It has not left. It is only covered with a veil of illusion. It is still filled with wonder and joy. The earth smells of delightful fragrances and there are still people sitting in each other's company by firelight, looking into each other's eyes and laughing and sharing stories of old. There are great grandmothers holding great grandchildren on their laps singing lullabies and bringing the comfort of sound and touch. There are birds in the air darting back and forth into the blue sky drawing each other forth into formation or screeching stay away. The rabbits are in the garden and the tomato plants grow 6 inches a day. The season is changing and soon another will come. The air is fresh where we are and the sun rises and the sun sets on the timetable of God. It is all still here while you remain bored and discontent. The stars will shine whether or not you take the time to notice that which was used to present to Abraham God's promise. The fish still fill the stream and there are still those who sit calmly by the shore to catch them. The forests remain whether or not you walk their paths and smell the peppery smell of the pines. Children still sit in classrooms singing of beauty and love and the fireflies still move silently and brilliantly through the late summer nights. Nature and the human beings in front of us still remind us that God and all of His goodness is still here. His promises dance right out our windows. His saints and angels watch as the lights go out in our homes at night and hear the parting words of those inside. God's words of "Just let Me love you" move with the wind through the boughs of the trees in and out of yards onto the sides of concrete structures and into the wildness of the un-trailed wilderness, and hover over the vastness of the water. It is His mercy, it is Him, and He is still here calling to all of us to make room for Him, the Creator, the Savior, the one for whom we live this life. We need to look for His will within each and every experience and if it is not found we need to shut down the clanging noise and sit with Him in the freshness of His presence. Our very lives and our very eternity depends upon it.