Flourishing

But I am like a flourishing olive tree
in the house of God;
I trust in God’s faithful love forever and ever.
I will praise you forever for what you have done.
In the presence of your faithful people,
I will put my hope in your name, for it is good.
— Psalm 52:8-9
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What I have called this past season is not flourishing. It has felt more kindly like death, a desert, dry, and barren wasteland. So as we settled together on what we wanted not only ourselves but the women around us to hear and know about for a retreat of sorts, it was this very idea of what does it mean to truly flourish.

This Psalm ends with these very beautiful words, words we want to testify but don’t really have words for by the time the day has squeezed the life out of us. While joking but not joking, my friend Christina called it not flourishing, but floundering. Yet, this Psalm in its proper context does give words for that floundering, this being a song of vindication, of having seen wrong and been wronged, of asking for deliverance as it seems the wicked are those who are actually flourishing.

1 Samuel 21-22 gives us this story of the background of the Psalm, Doeg the Edomite and Saul killing senselessly and unrighteously. David lands in the Forest of Hereth, the wilderness, while the slaughtering of the priests at Nob occurs, and here is where we land both in the vindication as well as these beautiful, lovely, hopeful words.

During our time together, Shawna Duvall led us into seeing this from David’s perspective, a place where David knew not circumstantially, but positionally that he was flourishing because he was God’s own. As the psalm says, “for what you have done,” or, “because you have done it,” we land in a place of praise because there is only room for thanksgiving, only room for receiving grace. The many times I must preach this, the gospel, to myself as I see only failure, dying without new life, my hope misplaced, is more than necessary, a steroid to atrophied muscles.

This time doubled as not only work, but goodbye, a twelve-week long process that culminated in this final push, silently with only a few knowing. I finally know what’s next, having waited with shaking fists as I failed to trust God’s hand in my life, sharing openly these new found facts with those who asked. It felt like even in that space, telling others how I had given the Lord my dreams, but yelled at Him in the process, I was able to take myself less seriously; the person I thought I would be in the middle of faith turned out to be faithless, and yet, God was still faithful. Thank goodness, He still causes me to flourish even while I am the one refusing to live into it. Thank goodness, the story of Scripture shows person after person who is also floundering, and yet, God continues to stay His course, and thank goodness, He gets all His deserved glory. I am not the hero of this story.

I remember weeping when I got the good news, still in awe and shock as I had prepared myself for more hurt and rejection, a theology I also must put in check as simply assuming the worst will happen is no way to see or hope for resurrection life. Hope: that’s the word I’ve been clinging to, while feeling and believing the opposite. I wept once more when I realized my hope had been in my ever changing circumstances.

It is not ironic to me that my psalm for this year is also a vindication psalm, one that I lacked understanding for back in June, but now have spoken in all the tongues of each of these months in between. I have offered up countless apologies to those closest to me; this is not the person that I want to be or thought I was, and yet, here I am in full grief. I would not ask or want for apologies from anyone else in the same place.

How I wished I had faith, how I wished I had hope that saw in spite of my circumstances that in waiting I will not be put to shame, that because of hope in its rightful place, I am a flourishing olive tree in the house of God. I did not trust His ways. I wish I had trusted in His ways.

Yet, He is who He says He is. The work is done, and yet, He is also working currently in this unbelief to produce fruits as he also weeds out roots that have found their home not in Him. In spite of me, and because He simply loves me, and because He can’t be who He is not, I am flourishing. I need not grasp, I have and have had no lack. Repentance, moving me to belief, moving me to remembrance, moving these weak hands and feet from slumber.

He is clothing me, He is preparing a table, He is on the move, He is with me. My cup overflows.