Psalm 44: Response
Japanese citizen facing the aftermath of Hiroshima
“It was not by their sword that they took the land,
their arm did not give them victory,
but Your right hand, Your arm, and Your goodwill,
for You favored them.”
My mother told me stories. Stories of the ancestors, of courage and of honor. Once she told me of Kublai Khan, of his vast fleets, of the Mongol invaders who tested the sky... They came to violate, to plunder, to burn, but upon our shores found no place to step. For You abjured them, You refused their entrance… And then the great Kamikaze, the Divine Wind from the heavens, how it raged and howled and swept away all... By whose hand, if not Yours? By whose vengeance, if not Yours?!
“Through You we gore our foes;
by Your name we trample our adversaries.”
-Psalm 44: 6
We are a strong people, a people of honor and shame. Never shall we fear the unworthy adversary; never shall we relinquish that which is ours. Like trampled grass that rises again, so let us be. Turn Your wrath upon this enemy! Let his weapon be upon his own head!
“Yet You have rejected and disgraced us;
You do not go with our armies.
You make us retreat before our foe;
our enemies plunder us at will.”
-Psalm 44: 10-11
Curse the stories! Curse my mother’s lies! Who can fathom such devastation? Who can endure such grief?! The city of water, we were called. Nigh, the city of death! An ocean of rubble and corpses… Why do You permit such horror? How can You see and not be shaken? Answer me, Elohim! Defend Your righteousness, Your cold, cold righteousness, in the face of my dead!
“You let them devour us like sheep;
You disperse us among the nations.”
Darkness. You have given us over to darkness. Darkness after the searing light, a light that melted eyes and bones. The flash was so merciless, I thought it was Your face turned in wrath… Surely there is a God, for nature could not yield this evil alone. How could this abomination by the hands of men ever been manifest, if not by Your will, the will of the ultimate Power? You are a God as cruel as He is eternal. This magnitude of suffering could not be, not without higher intention, not unless You wished it so.
“Though You cast us, crushed, to where the sea monster is,
and covered us over with deepest darkness,
did we forget the name of our God
and spread forth our hands to a foreign God?!”
-Psalm 44: 20-21
Who are You to thrust this terror upon us?! Who are You, oh great and mighty Judge? I will tell You. You are the highest of hypocrites, the most brutal betrayer! Look into the oceans formed by Your hand; use them for a mirror. May the light of Your face- wretched light that singes flesh from bone and then burns bone to ash- may that light be cast back at You. Then You shall know who is guilty. You, who repaid our praise with pain, our delight with despair, our love with death!
“It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long,
that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
-Psalm 44: 23
You have given us over to utter destruction. You have surrendered us to the enemy. Hope is all but obliterated. In one day, in a single blast of fire and judgment, we are cast into the stuff of nightmares, hurled thoughtlessly into a living hell.
“We lie prostrate in the dust;
our body clings to the ground.”
-Psalm 44: 26
Burned shells are the bodies. Corpses like rotting sacks of meat. What need have we to bury the dead? The land and air are a grave to themselves. The sickness is seeping into those who remain, the radiation poisoning our blood. Nature rebels. The living choke and vomit as death squeezes their throats, as their viscera cramps and seizes. The second wave of this horror.
“Arise and help us,
redeem us, as befits Your faithfulness.”
-Psalm 44: 27
How long, O God? How long must we be shamed?! Damn my mother’s stories. Damn this strange faith in which she grew me. Why should I implore You, You, the heartless tormenter who laughs in the face of our agony?! Damn the enemy and his weapons! And damn You too!
Writing something so radical and so blasphemous is hardly the most pleasant experience. The process engenders conflicting emotions. I love to write, that’s true, love to play with words the way I imagine a virtuoso plays his violin, weaving together its chords and harmonies. However, I cannot rid myself of a sense of wrongness. I do not just mean the feeling of fear, though there is that. It comes with challenging so harshly a Power that could obliterate me with a single breath. But I also mean the sense of sadness and guilt that follows saying such cruel things to and about Someone I love… I am able to do so because God is a big boy and He can deal with it.