Psalm 1

"like a tree planted by streams of water"


Psalm 1 is famous for starting off the collection with the "two paths" metaphor. This is a frequently used image in wisdom and religious traditions. And also in many talks parents give to their children! Two paths are out ahead of you. Two choices. Two futures. Two lives. Even two "You's." Which will you choose?

In describing the person who "delights in the law of the Lord," who "walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers," we find the idyllic, pastoral and botanical image of being "like a tree planted by streams of water."

Like J.R.R. Tolkien, I have a romantic attachment to trees. There is their size, of course, which provide shade and shelter. It's also their age, how many trees live longer than we do, from centuries to millennia. 

Trees also have both depth and height, making them a perfect spiritual metaphors. Deep, hidden roots supporting branches that soar into the sky where leaves dance in the sunlight. 

Which brings me back to the image from Psalm 1. If I'm a tree, how closely am I connected to the Source of my being? 

I live in West Texas, so trees here are especially precious. This is a semi-arid climate. Our churches pray for rain. The poet lived in similar place, knowing how closely trees had to be connected to sources of water. Images of thirst, dryness, and aridity fill the Psalms. Water was a daily matter of life or death. That need and dependency, that vital tethering, was always in view. 

How far away am I from water? How far are you? Life demands a pressing, necessary proximity. More and more, my spiritual life is haunted by this desert mentality. I don't know about you, but I have a felt sense of scarcity within myself, a dryness that is always close at hand. I am thirsty and dehydrated. 

I am reading through the Gospel of John this year, over and over again. I am struck by how Jesus repeatedly describes himself as water and light. 

I think that is the secret to the spiritual life.

Water and light.

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