Sink or swim: a reflection for the second Friday of Lent

Editors' note: Every day of Lent Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill will be providing audio reflections on the Psalms of the day as part of America's “The Word” podcast. 


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Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice!. ~ Ps 130:1-2

The only time I have truly been in peril on the sea was years ago when, on a solo outing in the family Sunfish off the beach, I capsized. As the sail filled with water and the waves billowed around me, I made several unsuccessful attempts to right the boat. In those moments I experienced a potent mixture of panic, adrenaline, fear and desperation—probably much like the feelings that our psalmist channels in the marvelously onomatopoeic opening verse of Psalm 130 (the Hebrew for “out of the depths” is mim-ma-a-ma-kim, the repeated “m”s conjuring the chattering teeth of one struggling in deep, cold water).

One need not have been physically engulfed by billows to know what it feels like to be drowning. We may be submerged by the needs of family members, or the demands of academic work, or job pressures, or the strictures of illness or addiction or lack of money. And in those desperate moments—often not until those moments—we cry out for the saving hand of God, acknowledging that he alone can save us. Perhaps the gift of the rough seas is that they force us to acknowledge our utter dependence on the One who loves us.

As Augustine observes in his exposition of Psalm 130, “For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever has understood himself to be in the deep cries out, groans, sighs, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sits above all the deeps.”

Lord God, creator of the earth and master of the deep, Accompany and protect me as I sail forth upon the uncertain seas of my life. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

To hear J.S. Bach’s cantata “Aus der Tiefen, rufe ich, Herr, zu dir,” BWV 131, click here.

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