Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Praise and Wellness

Most mornings my wife and I take a few minutes to share a cup of coffee, chat, read a psalm, and pray for the day. Some psalms are filled with gratitude, some are dark with complaints, others are disturbing with their petitions for the destruction of enemies. One thing most of the Psalms have in common is a resolve toward hope and a persistence toward praise, regardless of circumstances.

Sometimes my personal temperament makes it difficult for me to relate to the ongoing and repetitive expressions of praise. I do, however, embrace them and consider them a call toward a healthier disposition. For me, this is central to the power of the psalms. I'm glad for the times the psalms resonate with an aspect of my brokenness––fears, complaints, irritation, fatigue. I'm most glad that at all times the Psalms challenge me to a more vigorous place of faith and wholeness by provoking and pushing me toward praise. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis asks his readers to think about this connection of praise and inner health.

The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.

I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.

The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.

The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous. Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns, and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as Hymns Ancient and Modern.

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what we indeed can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, ©1958 & 1986, pp. 94-95.

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