Saturday, April 13         Psalm 31:9-16     Rev. Rachel Heyduck

Have mercy on me, Lord, because I’m depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, as do my spirit and my body. 10 My life is consumed with sadness; my years are consumed with groaning. Strength fails me because of my suffering; my bones dry up. 11 I’m a joke to all my enemies, still worse to my neighbors. I scare my friends, and whoever sees me in the street runs away! 12 I am forgotten, like I’m dead, completely out of mind; I am like a piece of pottery, destroyed. 13 Yes, I’ve heard all the gossiping, terror all around; so many gang up together against me, they plan to take my life! 14 But me? I trust you, Lord! I affirm, “You are my God.” 15 My future is in your hands. Don’t hand me over to my enemies, to all who are out to get me! 16 Shine your face on your servant; save me by your faithful love!

Do you remember the story of locusts in the plagues of Moses? They were destructive creatures that came and devoured everything. Here is something you may not know, scientists did not know that grasshoppers and locusts were the same creatures for centuries. How could these quiet, reclusive grasshopper turn into a hungry gang of insects that leave destruction in their paths?

Grasshoppers have little stimuli, little hairs, on their hind legs which get triggered when they are within close proximity, which happens during a drought. These hind leg hairs start a hormonal domino cascade of the behavioral change from the solitary grasshopper into the notorious swarming locust. It is not just their behavior that changes. They have physical changes also. For instance, their wings grow bigger, and they start flying around like crazy. They turn from green to black and yellow. They get aggressive and fearless, and incredibly social. In fact, according to scientists, they are actively attracted to other locusts. And that’s how the swarms build.

But why did it literally take centuries to figure out that these two creatures were actually the same creature? And why, even after the theory was proposed, did scientists resist it? Why was that such a hard idea to swallow? Maybe it’s because we can’t see that in ourselves. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychology professor from Northeastern University, says people can be “experientially blind” when faced with a new image of themselves. They just can’t take it in.

She says we often have such a rigid sense of self that when we’re presented with new concepts about ourselves — like, you think of yourself as a generous person and then someone tells you they actually think you’re kind of selfish —our reaction is usually to reject it. “People will defend themselves or dig their heels in, keep their concepts intact. Or they’ll ignore,” she says.

We like to think that we know who we are and that we are one thing — one true unified self. But the reality is that we are not like this. We have times and situations where we are different. We are not always generous even when we think we are.

Today’s psalmist finds himself in one of those places, faced with depression and anguish. /he is not acting like himself. Experiential blindness is an essential task for us to evaluate, especially during Lent. This is a time to be honest with ourselves and with God. We are not all that we want to be, or that God has called us to be. But we are on a path to take these woes to God and explore how we can grow.

Prayer: We pray that you open our eyes to our flaws that we need to see.