We human creatures are an eclectic cocktail of nature and nurture – products of our unique genetic makeup and our own conglomeration of environmental factors and experiences – all of which combine to form our particular sensibilities, behavior, tastes and preferences.
In my nature/nurture mix, music is a biggie, shaping me and the arc of my life in a multitude of ways. I rarely encountered my father when he wasn’t humming or whistling, and musical-variety shows were as valued by him as ABC’s Wide World of Sports. We never missed Lawrence Welk, The Andy Williams Show, Sing Along with Mitch, The Ed Sullivan Show, or Hee Haw. I played clarinet in my school band, taught myself to play the piano, sang in the church choir, and met my husband at a high school music contest.
My tastes in music are wide-ranging, but born squarely in the middle of the post-World War II baby boom, I’ve been forever imprinted and informed by the music of my generation.
I still love it. Give me a 50s, 60s, or 70s oldies station, and I’m a happy camper.
But that musical bent carries over into other areas of my life as well. When I read the Psalms – considered the “hymnbook” of the scriptures – I always check the chapter sub-headings for any musical references that may be there.
Psalm 57 came up in my reading this week. The sub-heading in my study Bible reads, in part,
“For the director of music.
To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”
Maybe I was just in an “oldies” frame of mind – I watched a re-airing of the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday evening and The Zombies and Def Leppard were still playing in my head – but for whatever reason, the first thing I thought when I read that was, “Why don’t we play that song anymore?”
Destruction of every stripe – or the very real possibility of it – is everywhere these days.
Another school shooting this week. Storms and flooding ravaging much of the country. Plane crashes. Tensions escalating in the Mid- and Far East. Gas prices rising, stocks falling. Rachel Held Evans and Jean Vanier both gone too soon. Not making it into the headlines – yet every bit as deadly and as pervasive – are all the horrible and destructive things we say to each other and to ourselves on a daily basis.
Where is that “Do Not Destroy” song now, when we need it most?
It’s time to reclaim it. Rewrite it, if we have to. So we can all play it and sing it again and again until it becomes who we are.
Here’s my remix of Psalm 57, a mashup of multiple translations and my own words.
Take pity on us, Holy One,
have mercy, bring peace,
be mercy, be peace to us.
We cry out to you, we call, we rage, we lament,
for in you is faithful love and wisdom,
and we ache to be filled.
Shelter us in the shadow of your wings until the
calamities, the disaster, the destruction, the storms have passed,
until the fears that bind us are transformed.
Turn our anger into action
move us from despair to compassion
refine our fear into hope.
Mold us and make us, Holy One,
craft us and build us into people
who – no matter what else we do – do not destroy.
Our hearts are ready, Holy One.
We will sing and make music with and for you
We will tell of your mercy and love, your faithfulness and truth,
which are as vast as the heavens, higher than the skies.
Our hearts are ready, Holy One.