“He raises the needy from the dust; from the dung heap He lifts up the poor” (Responsorial Psalm from 1 Sam. 2:8, USCCB daily readings)
This doesn’t seem to be a very elegant description right before Christmas. Yet it is a necessary one. The older I get it seems like the more I have to do a double take on what I hear. Either my teenagers have the tendency to mumble or I am getting closer to needing a hearing aid. Most likely it is both. That is why when I heard yesterday’s (December 22) responsorial psalm, I had to recheck the reading to make sure I heard and understood that God is in the business of lifting some out of a heap of crap.
Our journey can take us in a direction where we might find ourselves in deep dung. We might be weighed down by issues that seem to engulf us. And we need a helping hand to rise above the muck. In addition some choose to wallow in it. Rehashing and recycling the same old garbage. Others might like to dig it up on others. You know the types. You might have even seen it in yourself. Some have an inability to rise above it. Feet get stuck in the mud, thicker than dinosaur toes in tar pits. And it is what it is. There is no use in trying to sugar coat or cover it up with perfume. There is nothing worse than stink covered up with cologne.
Many do not mince their situation with gentle words. A lot can be said about their genuineness. Acknowledging the situation for what it is — is half of the battle. An example can be seen in those who struggle with addictions. The road to recovery involves first being able to see the problem and then being able to scrape up enough motivation to change. The face of substance abuse and dependency is not pretty. Such a person may indeed be in poor shape and in it very deep. And the psalm does mention the poor. Traditionally 12-step programs such as AA place focus on a higher power to help one deal with an addiction.
I grew up near the famous and sometimes infamous Niagara Falls in New York. One of the features on the river is a whirlpool called the Devil’s Hole. A whirlpool is a swirl of current that funnels and sucks one down somewhere underneath the water. The victim usually drowns and sometimes the body is never found. As a little kid I used to have nightmares about this hole. I would fall over the edge and into the gorge below. This repeated itself many times. But once I remember dreaming the Hand of God reaching down and pulling me out. This reminds me a lot of how He can pull us up from the dung heap.
There is a positive side to these currents. Swirling water can be a source of energy. Immigrants in the late 1800s helped to build the huge power plant over the Niagara River to harness the rapids. In some ways dung also can be very useful and essential too. It is good fertilizer and a truck load can cost a penny and take a lot of effort to unload. Some really beautiful flowers can emerge out of it. I also remember learning as a kid that in some cultures especially where wood is very limited, it can be used as a fuel source. Even some versions of the Bible refer to the dung as ash. It is probable that the ash pile was made up of refuse and a lot of dung.
The good Lord knows that our own culture is full of crap and I have always thought that if we could just convert all of the trash then we would not be so dependent on oil and in such a crisis for reserves of energy.
So being caught in deep dung can have its advantages, however unpleasant. The trials in our lives can be turned into opportunities for growth. It is a matter of our perspective. It is saying and seeing it for what it is, and knowing that there can be a Hand out there somewhere to help us.
I wonder if anyone has ever been pulled up from the dung heap by the back of one’s neck?