Singing the Blues in Psalm 32

photo taken by Peggy Hobbs
photo taken by Peggy Hobbs

Back in high school, all my friends were listening to the usual radio stations–dear God, Nickleback had the number one song my senior year–but my brother and I were a bit more antiestablishment, even back then. We rolled down the road in our dad’s ’88 Bronco II (which is still the coolest truck or car I’ve ever driven) listening to John Lee Hooker on cassette.

Oh, and we listened to the King of the Blues. Of course, I’m talking now about B.B. King.

There is something special that comes out in blues music, particularly for somebody who finds it easier to lament than to rejoice. These songs are about loss, about grief, and about lonliness. They are about bad choices. They are about making the most out of a losing situation.

The season of Lent reminds us to own up to grief. Lent is an invitation to go down to the depths of our humanity with Christ himself. Lent is the time that we remember that we are not as we should be, individually and collectively. Loss, lonlienss, bad decisions, and losing situations are not unfamilar to us.

And so it seems appropriate to begin the season of Lent with a psalm that is about expression. In verses three and four, David is internalizing his guilt and shame for having broken covenant with God. This psalm (alongside Psalm 51) can be understood as coming in the wake of that ugly sequence in David’s life that had him sleeping with his infantryman, Uriah’s wife, attempting to frame the poor guy, then having him murdered. The guilt that the episode of Bathsheba and Uriah brought on David came to a head with the prophet Nathan’s fierce censure.

His body fatigued from holding in the weight of guilt upon him, David felt the hand of God upon him day and night. Do you know what the pressure of unconfessed sin feels like? It can become a somatic experience in a hurry.

At this point, this psalm is about David embodying shame. You can see him pacing the floors, desperate for relief, cringing at the prospect of the judgement of God. Until he comes to his senses. Until he starts to sing the blues.

Verse 5: I said “I shall confess my sins to the Lord”

As we move into the season of Lent, may we know what it is to be forgiven, to be guiltless, to be surrounded by the kindness of God.

May we have the courage to sing the blues.

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