Yesterday, the second official day of spring, I quickly changed from “Sunday clothes” into short-sleeved blouse and sandals, dragged out my small lawn chair from its dusty winter corner, and headed to the grassy area behind our condo building where green tips are just beginning to peek through winter brown. The sun was brilliant, the sky blue with wispy clouds, the temperature toasty. This area is surrounded by grey boulders huddled between lush pine and cedar trees: a perfect hiding place for an hour or so away from people and a busy life. The only barely heard sound was traffic on nearby streets and even that was muted on this beautiful afternoon.
But then I realized that a beloved spring sound was missing: the song of birds. Where were they? Didn’t they know spring had come?! I put down my book and listened more intently. No, the birds were not singing, not a tweet or twitter. Is it possible that these small creatures are acutely tuned to Springtime in the Rockies, a season when days like these come in all their glory, then quickly disappear in a sudden snowstorm that re-covers the landscape in white? Several times in recent years I walked outdoors during one of those storms that banished the exuberance of an early spring and to my amazement, I spied small flocks huddled together on snow-pillowed branches of those same pines.
Our songs, like those of the birds, come and go. In one of the most difficult psalms (137), we read of a captured people who mourn the loss of their beloved city and the life they formerly knew. Their tormentors harshly mock them, demanding that they sing their once triumphant song, but they refuse. They hang their harps on trees, sit down by the river and weep.
In Psalm 77 another musician mourns (here paraphrased in The Living Bible): I keep thinking of the good old days of the past, long since ended. Then my nights were filled with joyous songs… Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be favorable? Is his loving-kindness gone forever? Has his promise failed?
I think translators should have inserted the following: STOP, TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND THINK before what comes next: Then I thought…I (will) recall the many miracles he did for me so long ago. Those wonderful deeds are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about them. O God, your ways are holy…
That’s what keeps the songs coming, maybe only sung in the depths of our hearts, often with the accompaniment of tears, no sound reaching passersby. We remember—the word in Hebrew can mean ‘to be mindful’ as well as ‘to boast or celebrate’—and through our tears and questions, our disappointment, maybe even our anger—we begin to hum a remembered melody of God’s love and faithfulness. Spring is coming, just not quite yet.