Bearing Or Beating?

Have you ever glanced at a word quickly and totally misread it? I’ve often wondered if the words we think we see come from some kind of anticipatory part of our brains, where we think we know what we are going to read before we read it. I’m sure someone has developed a theory on this phenomena, but I’m not familiar with it.

youversion-logoTake this morning, for example. My wife and I both use the Bible app YouVersion on our mobile devices. It’s an excellent app, offering several different translations of the Bible and a fairly extensive search feature, as well as a Verse of the Day each day. The verse appears upon opening the program, so I’ll sheepishly admit it’s easy to glance and it and not really think about what it says. Here is today’s verse:

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah (Psalm 68:19, ESV)

Notice the word bears. Now, imagine if someone misread one of the letters in that word; specifically, the r. To make a needlessly long explanation short, I thought for a moment I saw the word beats“Blessed be the Lord, who daily BEATS us up…”

Very slight difference there.

Of course, the first thing I did was laugh at my mistake. Because I over-think everything in life, though, I thought about the alternate wording again. “…The Lord, who beats us up…” Was this a simple case of not paying attention to what I was reading, or did I just tap into some subliminal content hidden in my mind?

In all seriousness, I went with the former over the latter. Even though I knew I had merely misread the word, however, there have been times when I felt exactly that way. Days when I believed God couldn’t possibly have any use for me anymore. Days when I openly questioned Him on why He made me the way I am. Days when I just knew that every problem I had was because I was such a lousy Christian.

Okay, so maybe He wasn’t doing all the beating … but I didn’t exactly feel as if He was being particularly kind to me either. What I came to realize, however, after coming to terms with my depression, going through some counseling, and renewing my mind, was that I had a problem of perspective. He wasn’t beating me; He was bearing me. All those times He pointed out my screw-ups, He wanted me to be better. All those times I couldn’t figure out why I was here, He wanted to me to dig deeper. And all those times I thought He was done with me, He was just getting started.

I don’t mean to say I don’t ever get sideways with God anymore. I can think of things in my life right now I’m sure He’s not happy with, and there are definitely days when that r looks an awful lot like a t. The truth, though, is in the Bible. I know; I checked the app.

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The Big Drop

I am a total wimp when it comes to amusement park rides. Spin me around in circles, and I’m fine; plunge me off some kind drop-off, and I’m praying to God for survival. That feeling of hurtling toward potential death has never done much for me, so I tend to avoid things like roller coasters and log flumes and stick closer to the tilt-a-whirl. Occasionally, though, one of my children will talk me into riding something I almost immediately regret getting on.

This happened a couple of years ago at Disney World. Against my better judgement, I joined my wife and kids on the Splash splash mountainMountain ride. This was fairly early in our day at the park, which meant there would be other attractions to take in from there. As anyone who has ever ridden a log flume before knows, there is that moment when you’re just about to go over the edge of the falls that feels like your stomach is going into your throat and you’re going to drop into nothingness. If I could just avoid that moment, I would be fine.

A funny thing happened after we rode that ride that day. That feeling I just described continued to happen to me, even on rides that were relatively benign compared to the first one. I still remember very clearly going over the small drop-off near the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and being so nervous I was white-knuckling the metal bar in front of my seat. Even the slightest dip had me on edge the rest of the day. It was unnerving, to say the least.

I am purely speculating here, but I would imagine I experienced a very small, minuscule dose of what it would be like to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Before you think me an idiot, I am in no way comparing a jumpy day at Disney World to having to deal with a post-war or mentally traumatic experience. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that “PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm,” though, it did offer me a tiny, tiny glimpse into what an affliction of this kind might feel like.

MemorialDayFlagI thought on this Memorial Day of that day at Disney World because there are so many military veterans struggling with this very condition. I’ve read heartbreaking accounts from celebrities such as actor Patrick Stewart and singer Sammy Hagar about how their fathers behaved incredibly erratically and irrationally after wartime experiences. I know people with spouses who have been diagnosed with PTSD. I am only a spectator looking in, however. My heart goes out to the soldiers who can’t find peace today, but I feel utterly powerless to help them.

A search of the internet today brought up a few possibilities of PTSD occurrences in the Bible. The most common citing I found was the story of Noah. Long before Darren Aronofsky’s Noah film was released, I had heard people discuss the fact that there were more than likely people outside of the ark who were screaming for help, maybe even banging on the outside of the boat, as the floodwaters rose. Noah had to hear that, but he couldn’t let them in. Following God’s commands is not always an easy task, and Noah basically had to turn his back on his dying neighbors.

Noah’s story takes sort of a nasty turn once the flood is over, as he winds up drunk and naked inside his tent. It’s an odd epilogue to an account of the only righteous man on Earth at the time. King Saul did some pretty nutty stuff later on in life, too, and David’s Psalms are an open book on his fluctuating state of mind as well. Were any of them suffering from what we now call PTSD? We’ll never know for sure, as the type of psychological analysis we employ today is not found anywhere in the Bible. What is for certain, though, is that even good men can go off the rails following traumatic experiences.

I pray today not only for military veterans suffering from this affliction, but anyone who has dealt with it for any other reason as well. Your drop was a lot steeper than mine, and you have to deal with it every day. May we all pray to find ways to ease your burdens and comfort your souls.