My father passed away peacefully last week at the age of 90. He never regained consciousness after a massive stroke, but I was so thankful I could be with him and the rest of my family as he made his journey home. During the five days, I sometimes read scripture to him. Along with the standard comforting passages, I found Psalm 139 particularly reassuring. Here is part one of a paraphrase I wrote a few years ago:
“Oh God, with You I’m not lost in a faceless crowd.
You’ve picked me out and studied me through and through.
So You know when I am down and when I am filled with joy.
Even when I don’t feel close to You, You understand what I am thinking.
Physical distance is no limitation to Your understanding of me,
because You are Lord of time and space–
and neither is spiritual distance–
You see everything.
You pay very close attention to the way I live my life,
when I stop, when I try to hide.
You know all my tricks, all my shortcuts and detours.
Even before I speak what I’m thinking,
You know what I’m going to say;
You know my heart completely.
And when I am silent, You still hear me.
You have surrounded me, the past that is behind me
and the future that lies ahead of me.
You have put Your hand on me, You have touched me.
The reality of this is so hard to grasp, so hard to feel.
Even though I experience it,
I’ll never be able to fully understand it.
This is how You care for me.
I will never be able to get away from You.
Even if I close my eyes and heart and ears to You
and become spiritually blind and deaf,
You will still hear me.
If I come close to You and join others worshiping You,
of course You will meet me there.
But also if I go far away from Your place of worship,
if I flee from the very thought of You,
if I ignore You and pretend You do not exist,
even then You will guide me,
You will hold my life in Your hand
because You created me and I am Yours.
Whether I like it or not, I am not my own.
No matter how badly I mess up my life,
You are still going to be there
because no darkness is too deep for You.
You trump any gloom, any pain, any disaster.”
[paraphrase from the archives]