I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
– Psalm 81:6 (NRSV)
The NRSV adds a title to the beginning of this psalm: “God’s Appeal to Stubborn Israel.” And Israel sure is stubborn throughout the biblical narrative. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re human, just as they were. God sometimes has to make the same kind of appeal to us.
God reminds God’s people of their history together in this psalm. How God brought them out of slavery. How God has always taken care of them. In love, God bluntly tells Israel that their refusal to live in the kind of freedom that is associated with submitting to God will lead them nowhere good. But God doesn’t consign them to that no-good ending. God doesn’t give up on them. God invites them back into restored relationship with God.
This psalm was my lectio divina reading today, and I’m stuck on this verse. God relieved my shoulders of a burden about six months ago. Why God didn’t do so sooner, I don’t know. I asked for relief – repeatedly, over the course of a couple of years. But I knew instantly when that burden was no longer mine to carry. (Of course, I never carried it alone. That is something I learned a lot about in the process of not being released from it. But that’s for another post). I actually felt my shoulders drop and I let out a deep soul-sigh, a breath that I had been holding for too long.
So why have I tried to pick up that burden again more than once since that moment of release?
I can’t even clearly answer that question. I wanted to be free of it, and now I am. But not free in the way I expected. The ending wasn’t what i had hoped for. Maybe I’m trying to force that ending? To have my way?
What I can say is that God has been faithful to remind me that I am free, just as God was faithful to remind Israel. I am gaining a new appreciation for the patience of God. Our steps are ever-wobbly. Our memories quickly fade. Yet God remains to steady us and to speak truth to us.
Perhaps like me you are attempting to pick something up today that is no longer yours to carry.
Your shoulders are released from that burden.
Your hands are set free from carrying that basket.
GRACE AND PEACE ALONG THE WAY,
Image Courtesy of Aditya Saxena