- Troy Hatfield
Psalm 16:5 “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup.”
Confession: I hate this verse.
I’m not a Biblical scholar and don’t really know what this verse means in the original language or context. But I still hate it – or don’t like it very much, at the very least.
I remember reading this verse about 8 months ago and having it stop me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t get past those ten words. I’m pretty sure I started to journal immediately. There was something about those words I found arresting and convicting. As I tried to hack the way through my tangled thoughts and feelings, I came to the crushing conclusion.
I am not satisfied with my portion.
This reality rears its ugly head when I’m reading tweets and BookFace statuses and browsing Instagram photos. I find myself asking these kinds of questions:
“Why is he getting an article published?”
“Why is her song on that compilation CD?”
“Why is he speaking at that conference?”
“She got that position? Really?!”
I’m not sure if you can hear it, but the real questions that I’m asking are being whispered between each of the words: “What about me?! Why isn’t it my article/song/idea/voice/contribution?! How come I’m not getting those opportunities?”
On the off chance that anyone else connects with this reaction, I want to offer two behaviors I’m trying to adopt. These have been antidotes, in regular “doses,” that have helped bring a bit of contentment.
1) practicing gratitude. I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s been hugely important for me. When I’m able to focus on how generous God has been with me, I find I’m not nearly as obsessed with what others have been given.
During one season at church, I was invited to lead our staff into the contemplative practice known as the Prayer of Examen. One of the key components centers around gratitude – taking time to recognize the goodness of God expressed to us in so many ways. A friend of mine, in response, adopted an inspiring practice. He began to keep a journal in which he wrote 5 things, as specifically as he could, every day, for which he was grateful. As a further push, he didn’t allow himself to repeat any of those specifics. He kept the practice up for a year.
I really believe being a grateful person takes practice. Adopting some kind of regular way to orient oneself around gratitude is crucial. And listening to William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful For What You Got” is helpful too. (The Massive Attack version isn’t bad either.)
2) being a fan. I am still unable to get a few images from the 2013 Grammy Awards show out of my head. My favorite moments from that 210 minute spectacle were watching Taylor Swift sing along, in the front row, with every single song, with over-the-top facial expressions and enthusiastic movements. She was a fan of every artist on the stage. She clapped and cheered and I was convicted.
You see, I’m more often like Jay-Z, who also sat in the front row, in another section. He stood up, wore sunglasses, held a glass of Courvoisier in his crossed arms, and barely nodded his head to the music. I’m less likely to join others and more likely to keep my distance, in a variety of ways.
I want to be a better fan – to cheer along with my friends when they are successful, are given more opportunities, create great art. I want them to know I’ll be in the front row, singing my guts out and clapping my hands bright red for and with them.
There might be hope for me after all, assuming I continue to incorporate these behaviors regularly. I’m looking forward to the day when my reaction to the words “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup” will be “Thanks be to God.”
Troy is Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, where he’s been on staff since 2004. A musician, Anglophile, voracious reader and owner of more black clothing than anyone he knows, Troy has also recently married Lis, a violinist and lover of every member of the animal kingdom. Follow Troy on twitter @tr0yisbald.