Journaling in Exile: Day 3
Psalm 137
Brittany Stillwell

By the rivers of Babylon—
    there we sat down and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
    asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy.

-Psalm 137:1-6

I realized the other day that I haven’t sung in a while. I mean… I have, but not really. I sang a couple times for worship and that was definitely meaningful, but I haven’t turned up the music and let loose a good heart song in a while. I wonder why. I’ve had plenty of time. I tend to do that when I clean the house and I give all my best concerts in the shower—and yes, I’m still showering and cleaning my house! But I haven’t had a good jam session in a while. And I’m not really sure why.

Maybe I’m not sure what to sing. Maybe I’m too tired to sing—quarantine takes a whole different kind of energy. Maybe I just don’t feel like it. Maybe I feel guilty singing when I know there is so much pain in the world. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have a “Quarantine Playlist.” I have no idea what I would put in it!

I think maybe exile tricks us into silence. Like the psalmists’ captors, it taunts us, making us think our songs don’t belong here. We find ourselves instinctively wondering with the psalmist, “How can we sing in this foreign land?” And I don’t think this applies only to singing. Maybe exile has the tendency to stifle that which offers release in our souls and tempts us to neglect that which brings life. Perhaps I have convinced myself that there are things that are only worth doing in certain places or seasons.

What would it look like for me to let loose and sing? What would emerge? What songs should be in my “Quarantine Playlist?” Maybe a song of lament like the one in Psalm 137. Perhaps a song of faith and trust in God. Maybe a song of praise or a song of anger or fear.

Maybe I can sing the Lord’s song, in this foreign land. Chances are whatever kind of song emerges will be the Lord’s song, because ours is a God who sings with us.

O God, help me to remember you and to know that you are with me through all kinds of seasons and all types of exile. Loosen my tongue that I might sing your songs again. Amen.

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