But that’s not the conclusion I came to. Leaving the movie, I realized that Mr. Roger’s neighborhood is still around. You can find it in lots of cities and towns and even out in the country. You can find it at Willow Glen United Methodist Church. I heaved a great sigh of relief when I realized that church is one of the last places where it’s still OK to be a nerd, where you don’t have to be hip, where you can wear your old sweaters and the same sneakers every Sunday. Church is where you don’t have to move fast or be on the cutting edge of anything. Church is where being a little slow and behind the times doesn’t get your show cancelled. And church is where we still think we can make the world a better place by loving children and making them feel loved.
You may remember that in several places in the Bible, God says, “Vengeance is mine” [Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30] not because God likes to get angry at us and punish us, but because God wants to take that hate away from us and turn it into something that can actually help us. That’s what God did last week in Texas. And when you think about it, isn’t that what Jesus did for us on the cross? Didn’t he take our anger and turn it into love? Didn’t he take the vengeance directed at him and turn it into forgiveness? Didn’t he take all that energy that we have put into destroying the world and convert it into a power strong enough to save the world?
So for your spiritual wilderness survival, I suggest that you get yourself a sturdy, water-proof copy of this book and stash it in your backpack, so you can read the psalms on a regular basis. As you read about all the good things God did for Israel, you’ll start thinking about all the good things God has done for you. Then you can say: “With God’s help, I met that challenge. I triumphed over that trial. That crisis didn’t kill me. That trouble taught me a very valuable lesson. I can readily see that God was with me then, and I’m going to trust that God won’t abandon me now. So, I’m not going to focus on all the horrible things that have happened to me, some of which happened because of me. Instead, I’m going to give thanks to my God who has wondrously loved and cared for me.”
Long before the fields of psychology and psychiatry were established we had the psalms to tell us what was wrong with us, to help us to analyze our feelings and seek help for our life problems. For example, Psalm 42 captures many of the symptoms of major depression:
This is the real gift of the psalms. All the rest of the Bible is full of what God wants to say to us. But this one book contains everything we always wanted to say to God, whether we knew it or not. The psalms give us permission to think and to feel and then help us put those thoughts and feelings into words that can heal. So I wrote down some of what I prayed yesterday.