The Biblical Psalms are the “anatomy of the soul,” declares John Calvin, the Protestant reformer. Taken as a whole, their language covers the full range of human experience, from exultation to wretchedness. The Psalms of lamentation offer a stark contrast to the twenty-third Psalm’s green pastures and still waters. They depict floods, deep waters, engulfment, and drowning.
Years ago, I met a woman who told me she’d almost drowned while snorkeling off the Maui coast. She said, “I was choking, weak, disoriented, floundering up and down. I felt lost. Forsaken.” That forsakenness can be heard in the psalmist’s laments:
Psalm 69 – “Save me, O God, for the waters are come into my soul . . . I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.”
Psalm 88 – “Terrors have destroyed me. / All day long they surround me like a flood; / they have completely engulfed me.”
Beginning in 2005, such episodes swept away the illusory normalcy of our life together. Near the end of that year, Dick wrote, “I was overpowered.” It was as if a deluge had broken through a barrier, unmooring our lives.
The psalmist’s cries to God could have been uttered by my husband during those hellish years. It was as if the psalmist spoke to us, murmuring, “I, too, have been here.” Here was “in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.” Here was in the trough of a towering wave. It engulfed us.