It is fall and the leaves are slowly twisting to the ground forming a tawny hued blanket covering the frosty grass. It wont be long before the tawny blanket decays underneath a white snowy blanket which might rest on the ground for a couple of months. But unlike the pre-Pevensie’s Narnia, spring will eventually come and melt away the earth’s winter clothing revealing a fertile ground underneath ready to spring forth with flowers and grass. The grass will grow, the flowers will come to full bloom, and a season of fertile growth will enliven the land. But this flowery robe of growth will eventually fade as the temperatures drop and the leaves form fall’s tawny hued blanket once again.
I have seen over 50 of these cycles and realize it is as permanent as things come. There is no amount of strength that can slow or stop this inevitable cycle: we are powerless in the face of the constant changes in nature and we must learn to live with them.
I was at the ocean a few years ago and was entranced by the continuing cycle of waves pounding the shore. In fact, I was so entranced that I spent a few hours just watching the waves and listening to their sounds. At some point during those hours I wrote the following:
Forces driving unrelenting,
Horses stamping and progressing.
Sprightly dancers front a’leading,
Limits reached and now receding.
Dancing backward ever singing,
Trampled under hooves a’ fleeing.
Placid moment is preceding,
Endless cycles oft repeating.
I have always been intrigued by the marriage of the permanent and the temporal in nature’s cycles. While the progression of seasons and waves can not be stopped, the very seasons and waves themselves are moments of change. We know each new moment will quickly pass, yet while in the midst of them they seem eternal. At least that’s been my experience. Even as I sit here looking out the window at a sunny fall day unfolding before me, the green of summer is a quickly fading memory and the cold of winter, though running toward me at high speed is placed on hold. I am stuck in this particular moment of time and only memory or hope can take me from it.
But it is not just nature that is defined by these permanently changing cycles, life is subject to the same marriage. Think for a moment about the days of elementary school, middle school, and high school. Remember the struggles you faced as you passed through your early twenties and into your thirties. For those who have experienced them, the years between thirty and fifty held very different experiences, not to mention what the next few decades have held (or might hold) for you. We are constantly being driven through this inevitably changing cycle which we can neither slow nor overcome. The cycle of years and the greater cycle of life holds our whole existence firmly in its grasp, rarely, if ever granting us the freedom to escape.
I find it interesting that most of the time when we seek to escape, we search inwardly. That is, we find something within the cycles themselves to numb us or take our mind off of the cycles: we immerse ourselves in work, in entertainment, in sexuality, or many other similar things. But sometimes we look outward: sometimes we worship.
I think this is the reason that Psalm 93 is placed in the psalter where it is. Following Book III’s constant laments over life’s pain and suffering, Book IV, and Psalm 93 in particular, encourages us to look outward from the cycles of time’s inevitable waves for a breath of fresh air. Much of the time we bow under the weight of time’s waves and give into their persistent strength, but somewhere deep down we know there is something or someone to whom even the cycles are held accountable. Just as the falling leaf, driven by the changing season, crashes into the trunk of a massive tree halting is movement, we know that the cycles themselves are nothing compared to that which has set them into motion. And so, we worship.
Worship gives us a glimpse of respite from being stuck in the moment. Worship helps us recognize the freedom that lies outside these restricting cycles. Worship lifts us up from the storms of life and shows us the light of eternal life. Sometimes worship is a way of stating that which we know about God and praising the things he has revealed to us. But there are also times when worship is a way of opening ourselves up to the unknown depths of our creator. For when we see the complexity and magnificence of this world in which we are imprisoned, our hearts and minds long to know the infinitely complex and majestic one who created it all. As such, worship elevates our hearts to commune with what we can know about God as well as drawing us toward God’s infinite unknown nature.
This is why I think the psalmist wrote the words of Psalm 93. Following Book III’s waves of pain and suffering, the psalmist tells us that the floods of life will soon be silenced. They will recede in the presence of the one who created their cyclical power in the first place. They will relent before the one who calms the storms and then a new season will begin. A season that never turns to winter and in which we will worship the one who is majestic evermore.