Anchored in a Reality Different from Our Own

Note: This is part of a series of short posts, in the lead-up to the election, from leaders reflecting on hope and/or resistance.

By Rev. Tiffany Ashworth

A few months ago, I preached a sermon on Psalm 1. During my preparation, I kept stumbling over the phrase their delight is in the law. Delight and law? From where I’m standing, those are contradictory. Images of law conjure drudgery, burden, and weight. Law all too often represses rather than restores, closes in rather than opens up, belittles rather than inspires. It can be anxiety-making, self-preserving, and power-seeking rather than peace-imparting, generous, and life-giving. How can anyone delight in a law? Law, to me, often belongs on the path of dried up chaff not well-watered trees.

But then it dawned on me that the world I had entered and its law was not mine… or at least not the one within which I am conditioned to reside. Psalm 1 describes a world governed by a law that is a bountiful stream of water, always giving, animating, and breathing. It does not harm but nurtures. Law in Psalm 1 is life-giving water that ever-nourishes soil to be food for a tree. The water never depletes but only energizes, continuously enlivening the roots that give life to the tree, color to its leaves, and fruit for its branches. This passage paints a portrait of two worlds: one whose law is life, and another whose law is death. And when the winds inevitably stir, those in the former stand firm while those in the latter get carried away by the mildest breeze.

Scholars note that Psalm 1 is an orienting one, a kind of entryway that prepares the pray-er to enter a world vastly different from her own, and I’m more convinced than ever that a primary part of my “readiness” for the current moment involves becoming conditioned for a different world. We need to march, to protest, to organize ourselves. Without question. But we need to do so anchored in a reality different from our own, one that doesn’t just advocate life but is rooted firmly and fully within it. In a speech he delivered in 1962 titled “The Ethical Demands for Integration,” Dr. King spoke of a “higher law” that is creative rather than prohibitive. It is the law that does not simply dictate a vision of a just world but, through its transformative power, empowers us to become its citizens. 

The present time demands more than my “no” to present evils: I need to become a “yes” that contradicts them. Such is why a primary part of my preparedness for the current political moment has centered upon practices aimed at growing deeper into life. Dr. King prompts me to consider how invulnerable resistance happens in the face of what does by nature oppose and expose the weakness and depravity of present reality: thriving trees alongside weathered chaff. In my reflection on Psalm 1, I pondered how walking down a path requires taking one’s whole self in a particular direction, a turning (and re-turning) that claims the entirety of our lives. The way of life is a demanding endeavor, but it is death’s only demise. For the Lord watches over the way of the one, as the Hebrew scripture so tells us, but the way of the other is doomed.

Tiffany Ashworth lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and two young children. She is one internship away from earning her MDiv and is in the ordination process with the PC (U.S.A.). At present, she is enjoying ample time outside with her kids and is soaking up some much-needed soul care with a spiritual director.

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