The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.

Some fifteen years ago, my husband and I rented a few rooms in a derelict historic building in a state park. The rent was low and the view was lovely, and our housemate was a creative type from a previous generation. One night, when her gallbladder had failed her, she limped to our hallway, hunched over in pain.

“Summer,” she stage whispered, “Summer, please help me.”

I of course jumped out of bed and ran to see what was wrong.

“I can’t sleep. The pain is too much. Can you sing to me?”

It was the middle of the night, near the prayer hour known as Lauds. Perhaps I sensed the proximity to the quiet prayers of night the world over. The song that came out of me that night was a portion of a Psalm that I had set to music to help me remember it in my Hebrew class. Translated, you see part of it in the image above.

“The Lord will keep you from all evil. The Lord will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”

After a few times through that Psalm in every tune I knew for it and a few times through the 23rd, my housemate nodded. The music had healed her, she said, and she felt she could cope well enough to sleep.

Our lives have changed in myriad ways since those grad school days of housemates and Hebrew. We’ve bought houses and cars, had children and buried parents. But I find the same words coming to my lips on the dark nights. Plainsong, Gospel, Byzantine, Anglican, improvised, high Latin, low church and twangy, the Psalms pour out like balm.

Sometimes the grace goes to the hearer, and sometimes I am the only one comforted, as my voice wavers over the fevered head of a whimpering child or I set the rhythm of repentance with my tears. I have sung psalms over ventilators for the healing and the dying, a hope unseen but heard and felt. I have sung them into the hair of my babies and lined them sotto voce into the walls of unquiet rooms.

In our disconnected world filled with so much noise, the steady cadence of the Psalms joins us together. If we could hear each other, we wouldn’t hear the memes and politics and advertisements but the soul cry of the Psalms:

Out of the depths I cry to you…

Into your hands…

Then were our mouths filled with laughter…

His steadfast love endures forever…

Hallelujah…

God is our refuge and strength…

Psalms give us the “be still and know that I am God” and the “rejoice,” the many voices of awe at the pain and glory of love. 

I won’t tell you in your crux night that singing Psalms will solve everything, but I know it will heal you. I’ll meet you there in the singing.