O God, thou art my
earnestly I seek thee;
my soul thirsts for thee,
my flesh also longs for thee,
like a dry and parched land
So I look for thee in the
to see thy power and
Because thy kindness is better
than life itself,
my lips shall praise thee.
So will I bless thee all the days
of my life;
in thy name will I lift up
BACK in the days of my ordination training at King's College,
London, I learned the importance of preparation before receiving
the sacrament. A version of Psalm 63 became a touchstone in my
devotional notebook, as I hovered between agnosticism and
The opening verse spoke
to my condition: "earnestly I seek thee." Other translations may
offer "eagerly", or "early", but I was never that charismatically
eager, and I was certainly not monastically good at early
And so, through some 60
years of ministry, that apophatic doubting and seeking has
continued, inspired and threatened by a torrent of scientific
information (the vastness of space, or the discovery that there are
tiny bugs in my eyebrows), and tested by the doctrinal and domestic
convulsions of the Church to which I have gladly given my life.
Along the way, I have
found sympathy and support from many fellow pilgrims - from the
excitement of Bishop John Robinson's conclusion to Honest to
God (SCM, 1963), quoting Professor Herbert Butterfield: "Hold
to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted," to the
sobering reality of R. S. Thomas: "God will never be plain and Out
there, but dark rather and Inexplicable, as though he were in here"
(from "Pilgrimages" in Frequencies, Macmillan, 1978).
Now, in my 80s, as I lean
on the altar for support when I celebrate, relying for safety on
someone else to administer the chalice, "my flesh also longs for
thee like a dry and parched land". With the help of the medical
profession, I cope gratefully with my bits that refuse to function
as they once did.
So, strangely, after all
these years, these four verses become more and more relevant as I
prepare to receive my Lord, looking for him once more "in the
sanctuary", in the inverted values not of health and strength, but
in the "power and glory" of a broken body and poured-out blood.
As life itself becomes
more tentative, my increasing dependence can be only on the
kindness of God. It is now that ultimate kindness of the Crucified,
precipitating the promise of resurrection, that I need to affirm -
for myself, and for the mostly elderly people gathered around
So I endeavour to bless
my God in the remaining days of my life. As I worship in a loving,
middle-of-the-road parish church, I sometimes wish that we were a
little less inhibited, so that, without embarrassment, I might
"lift up my hands" in the divine name.
After receiving the
sacrament, I rest in the incomprehensible knowledge that responds
to my earnest seeking:
Lord, thou has searched me out and known me, thou knowest my
down-sitting and mine up- rising; thou understandest my thoughts
long before. . . If I climb up into heaven, thou art there; if I go
down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the
morning and remain in the uttermost part of the sea, even there
shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 139.1, 8-9
The Revd Ian Robins
is a retired priest in the diocese of Blackburn.