One year ago I lived half a world away from where I sit today. I sat in my comfortable home in southern California. I had no idea that a black man named Ahmaud Arbery had been lynched.
COVID came. We were bound to our home. In those early days, we grasped for opportunities for fellowship and communion. Virtual became reality. A friend and I started a Bible study of the Psalms hosted in a private Facebook group. On May 8th, nearly two months into our Bible study and after two months of being mostly at home, I needed to prepare a Psalm for the next week’s study.
Morning had passed. Meals had been prepared and cleaned up. Homeschool was done. The baby was down for a nap. Social media and national news lit up with the revelations of a video of men attacking and shooting a black runner. That was water under the day’s bridge as I sat at the kitchen table to prepare the study.
On 8 May, 2020, my yearly Bible reading plan directed me to Psalm 54, a Psalm of lament. As COVID marched on, it became readily apparent that we didn’t know what to do with the grief and tension that hung in the air and wafted through our virtual interactions. Learning and practicing lament became crucial to understand our spiritual reality. This was a new concept for some. For others, it has been their practice for generation after generation.
I pulled out my notebook and Bible and began to read, tentatively planning to prepare the Psalm for next week.
“O God, save me, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
O God, hear my prayer, give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. . .”
Three verses in, I stopped, shocked. The narrative I had listened to half-heartedly that morning welled up into tears of grief. Ahmaud Arbery was chased by two white men with guns in a pick-up truck. He was out for a run. They “thought he was a criminal.” Strangers had arisen against him – ruthless men who sought his very life. They “did not set God before themselves.”
I read it over and over again. Verse Three was Ahmaud’s verse. How many others are chased by ruthless strangers who do not set themselves before God, but instead sit in the place of God? I don’t know. But the response is clear – gut-wrenching lament as we cry out to God for His justice to reign on earth.
*For a more in-depth study of the entirety of Psalm 54, I recommend this commentary*