(In Fitzroy we are doing short Reflections each Sunday during Lent and this was one that Frances Livingstone did. It was so insightful that I thought it should be a rare Guest Blog on Soul Surmise. Thank you Frances for permission to publish.)
I came across a new word recently, courtesy of my daughter, and when I have passed it on in conversation to others, their response has been, to say the least, conspicuous. Not because it’s a beautiful sounding word , which it is, or that its derivation is unusual, which is also true, but because its meaning resonates with the experience of, dare I suggest, all of us. It’s an Old English word, uhtceare, meaning pre-dawn angst, you know those hours just before day break when we often lie awake, anxious about our own problems or those of the people we love, or anxious about anticipated problems not yet upon us.
I found myself thinking about this when I encountered the first reading of our Lenten booklet, Psalm 27. David starts off boldly:- “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” and then immediately launches into the various threats that he has experienced or is currently encountering. They are very much to the forefront of his mind. His problems are not minor; the vocabulary makes that clear – he talks about evil men devouring his flesh; foes attacking him; armies besieging him; wars breaking outagainst him. But he insists, in spite of this, that he will be kept safe,that God will hide him, shelter him, set him high upon a rock out of danger. It really looks as though David has it all sorted!
And then we come to the third phase of the psalm and the pace quickens; his mood changes; his confidence is replaced by desperation. So David also experiences the whole welter of emotions. What a relief! His moods fluctuate; his confidence and faith ebb and flow just like ours. “Do not hide your face…..do not turn your servant away. Do not reject me or forsake me”, he begs. “Teach me, lead me. Do not hand me over” he pleads. Maybe David’s pre-dawn angst isn’t so very different from our own; he too wants a quick fix.
And then it’s as if there’s a long pause between the first 12 verses and the last two. He has poured himself out emotionally and then, in verses 13 and 14, it’s as if a spirit of calm returns and a quiet confidence rises as he asserts. : “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and waitfor the Lord”…. I think I’ll try to rebuff those pre-dawn demons, that uhtceare, with these words, next time they attack.