As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and see the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
The psalmist’s thirst for God is an animal need, urgent and physical. He will go mad and die unless he gets a drink of God. He has been subsisting on tears, which are plentiful (there is so much to be sad about), but drinking brine will eventually kill him. He needs water, fresh and clean.
The only thing keeping him from despair is the vivid memory of what it was like to worship with the people of God, to sing and dance in jubilant procession, to behold God’s face in the elation of the assembly. What’s keeping him going is his hope to be swept up in those billows again.
Worship that rarely lifts you outside yourself or brings you to your knees, praise that stays inside the lines, timid trickles of prayer, joy cut fussily into small white cubes—is this what we offer, in writer Peter Hawkins’ words, to all the deer who come crashing through the underbrush, hunting for water to keep them alive?
If a congregation has a financial deficit, it’s worrisome. If it has an ecstasy deficit, it might well be fatal.
Where is your God?
Refuse our tepid songs, our threadbare words, our ungenerous rituals, great God. Intrude upon our safe remove, and plunge us into the depths to drink you in. Revive your crazed and panting deer, dying of thirst without your face. We want to live.