Psalm 119: ט Teth(b)

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69 The proud smear me with their lies;
    I will keep Your instructions wholeheartedly.
70 Their hearts are dull and callous;
    I am delighted to study Your teaching.
71 It is a good thing that I was humbled
    because it helped me learn Your limits.
72 Your teachings are more valuable to me
    than a fortune in gold and silver.  [The Voice]

 

I wonder if the psalmist realizes the irony of this stanza.  Perhaps I am missing something due to the years of translation and cultural change.   He* recognizes the “value” of being occasionally being put back in your place—to avoid thinking too much of oneself. But he continuously (both in this stanza and throughout the entire psalm so far) holds himself up on how righteous he is in his studies of God’s laws and statutes and how faithful he remains in the face of adversity.

All that being said, I am trying to decide if I am being hypocritical or if I am splitting a fine hair.  Yesterday, I took great exception to the idea of God using suffering to teach us a lesson.  Today, I am quite ok with the idea that an occasional humbling may be a good thing.  Perhaps the difference is that yesterday, the suffering was attributed to God while today, there is no indication of the source of the humbling.  Perhaps the difference is that I have experienced both “suffering” and humiliation.  Both have made me a better person, but the former has come at the hands of the fates (I refuse to believe that God sent the suffering) while the latter was the result of my being too full of myself.

I used the word “suffering” above because that was the word used in the first half of this stanza.  I am thinking of what it was like to grow up watching my father’s MS slowly and methodically take his abilities and mental faculties.  I know the grief and anger of watching someone you love suffer and undeserved fate.  I know the hardship that his disease put on our entire family.  Suffering? not really. But close enough to understand that a loving God should not use this in his toolbag of teaching aids.

I have no intention of providing a list of my humiliating moments here.  But I can think back on a number of them.  I think most of them have left me a better person by instructing me what not to do.  I suspect that there will be many more learning experiences in the future as well—each time I slip back into any sort of arrogance.  At least I can take some comfort in that it feels like these moments are becoming less frequent as I age.

* I know that I keep referring to the psalmist in the masculine.  I think this is probably a safe assumption.  If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, I will go back and edit my posts accordingly.

What do you think?