Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise. from: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
What are the feelings that today’s reading raise within you? For me there were two contrasting feelings striding hand in hand.
One is of a visceral sense of how bleak and challenging life can be for many of us as “we grope in gloom and dark of night” and struggle with “the storms of life.” How “our lives are frail, a fleeting breath,” and our existence lived under the spectre of our mortality as “we face our foe: the sting of death.”
The other very different feeling is of a shining sense of hope, calling upon the “Morning Star” and “radiant Sun.” Blended within this is proclamation of defiance in the face of life’s woes, calling on our “Saviour King” to come with “mighty stride” to break down doors and “unbar the way to heaven’s crown.”
As I reflected on this rendering of the Psalm, what also came to mind was Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem, “Still I rise.” In this too she weaves together the despair of life steeped in the history of black slavery with a marvellously defiant sassiness as she rises up from a past that is rooted in pain.
The crucial message of both ancient Psalm and modern poem is how pain and hope, life and death, suffering and salvation have an integral relationship; how one grows from the other. When faced with those in despair the answer is not to deny such feelings but to acknowledge and build from them. So that in Angelou’s words:
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
Prayer Dear God, In my fleeting breath of life be with me.
Be with me during the dark of night when I grope in gloom.
May your Radiant Sun make me bold with hope so that I rise at your heavenly dawn. Amen
Professor Graham Handscomb, Member of Christ Church URC Chelmsford.