I looked at Psalm 1 with two translations, NIV and The Message, the NIV because it's what I'm used to and The Message because it's different. One thing stands out in the NIV that doesn't in The Message and that is the first two verses. Psalm 1:1 says,
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers...
To me, this verse represents a progression. First comes walking in step with the wicked. When walking, it's easy to alter your course to avoid sin, but it's also easy to keep your momentum going and not even notice that you're following sin. If you take the analogy one step further, you get standing in sin. This is a choice: recognizing that you are in sin and choosing to stay there. One step more and you are sitting in sin: a decision not only to stay in sin, but also to make yourself comfortable in in.
My purpose in reading the Psalms, though, is not simply to understand things intellectually and come away with more knowledge to store away. I'm at a point in my faith where intellectual knowledge alone is not enough. So, when I read that verse more carefully, I see myself in it. It's hard at first to classify myself as "wicked," but I see the truth in it when I consider the progression of the past five or so years of my life.
First, I started wandering from God, a little bit here and there, but always coming back to Him. This isn't the type of wandering you may be thinking. On the outside, my life didn't change. Anyone looking at me from a worldly perspective wouldn't have seen me doing anything wrong. But, because of the circumstances of my life, I began closing my heart off to God, one little piece at a time. Over time, when I would turn back to Him, I would keep more and more of those closed-off sections to myself.
Eventually, my wanderings became longer. It would be months before I would actually turn my heart back toward God again and when I did, I was holding back. It's not so much that I made a choice to stand away from God, but I did make choices to not turn back to Him. There were many specific times when I felt God tugging at my heart a little, but instead of turning back, I would choose to stand my ground, keeping myself separated from Him. There are too many reasons for why I did this to go into detail, but at the core of all my reasons was that I was wounded and blamed God for much of it.
After a while, I became comfortable with my life the way it was and noticed God even less than before. I still don't know if it's because I wasn't ready to hear or if God really was leaving me to my own devices, but suffice it to say that God felt more distant than He ever had - at a time when I needed Him the most.
Looking back, I can see that I caused the great chasm between myself and my Lord, but I still experience anger and bitterness. I made a series of decisions that put an increasing amount of space between myself and God. Of course, the space crescendoed to a point where, when I finally felt the need to call out to God because of my circumstances, all I felt was a resounding, deafening silence. After all my time avoiding God, it felt like he was intentionally avoiding me.
To be perfectly honest, I still feel that way about God much of the time. I grew up in church, so I know all the verses about how God won't abandon us and how He won't give us more than we can handle. While intellectually I know the truth in those verses, right now, sometimes hearing those verses almost make me want to physically cringe. I'm not trying to offend anyone and I definitely am not headed down the path to renouncing my faith. Quite the opposite, I think I'm finally starting the journey towards real faith rather than a superficially easy faith: a transition from the theoretical the the deeply meaningful. And I don't think God intends that transition to be easy.