Prayer is translation. A man translates himself into a child asking for all there is in language he has barely mastered.
- singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen
I went to Boston to visit a friend this weekend and managed to see my eldest at college for lunch as well. It was good to have some time away; even the four hours on the bus were soothing, because I was alone with my work and thoughts.
Reentry into New York was a completely different thing. Why is coming back into the fray after a break always so jarring? Everything got on my nerves: the people on the subway, the people in my family, the to-do list that had piled up in my absence. It was as if I was surrounded on every side by enemies poking at me, tempting me to explode. As I mentally talked myself down from one irritation after another, a Bible verse came to mind:
They surrounded me like bees;
but they will be extinguished like burning thorns.
In the name of the Lord I will defeat them. (Psalm 118:13)
It helped—really helped—to envision each individual irritation as a bee, and to mentally zap it saying, “In the name of the Lord I will defeat you!” Because bees are small, and God is big. And irritations come in swarms. And I could see this as an attack on my peace, and call on the Lord for help in responding to irritation in a faithful manner.
The evening finally came to an end, and I'm pretty sure no one in my family was any the wiser about my struggle with irritation. So I read Psalm 118 in its entirety. Fittingly, it closed out the day with this good thought:
You are my God, and I will praise you;
my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
and his gracious love is eternal. (Psalm 118: 28-29)
In the midst of an attack of irritability, it's hard to be thankful. But when the swarm of stings has passed, gratitude comes easily. It flows as readily as in a psalm, sung to completion.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.