O God, from my youth you have taught me and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to the generations to come.
Psalm 71 sings like a grandparent’s prayer.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
Those of us who have earned some gray hairs come from a lifetime of experiences that shape our perspectives. We are able to carry a long vision that allows us insights that were not possible when we were younger.
The Two Halves of Life
Father Richard Rohr follows Carl Jung as they developed understandings about “the two halves of life.” During the first half, we build our sense of identity and security. During the second half, we seek a deeper sense of purpose.
Dr. Jung Jung wrote of his own experience:
It was only after the illness that I understood how important it is to affirm one’s own destiny. In this way we forge an ego that does not break down when incomprehensible things happen; an ego that endures, that endures the truth, and that is capable of coping with the world and with fate.
Then, to experience defeat is also to experience victory.
In the second half of life, we have more time and practical wisdom to interpret the lessons of life and discover the meaning and the purpose of those experiences.
Here is the perspective of our psalmist. His life of trust allows him to stay grounded in the now as well as to hold onto hope for the future.
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again … You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.
This ancient notion of “Honor” is a crucial and complex value in many human societies.
Honor-Shame systems pervade many ancient and current societies and its assumptions are evident throughout the Psalms. This concept of shame is much deeper than our Western notion of personal guilt or embarrassment.
In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame …
O my God, make haste to help me!
Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed; let those who seek to hurt me be covered with scorn and disgrace.
In his helpful little book exploring honor and shame throughout the Psalms, Jayson Georges says this:
Salvation in the Psalms is not just forgiveness … but it also involves vindication of honor, restoration of status, deliverance from shame, and the humiliation of enemies …
Psalms of praise glorify God for benevolence, patronage, faithfulness, covenant loyalty, favor and generosity as a trustworthy covenant partner.
The praise of the Psalms is not just on behalf of indivual humans who experienced God’s faithfulness. For Israel, it was also God who is “shamed” whenever God’s people suffer shame.
The restoration and redemption of God’s people is a vindication of God’s own honor.
The psalmist’s praise gives witness to earth and heaven alike that God’s honor is intact and God’s covenant can be trusted.
May the faith of all of us ‘gray hairs’ also share such a witness to the next generations.
See also Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Jayson Georges, Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms (Time Press) 2017 Kindle edition.
Here is an interesting article from the Central Intelligence Agency explaining the concept of “Face” within Arab culture.
Kenyan grandmother with child by Stacey Irvin
Thai grandfather with child in Retraite en Thaïlande magazine