In general, I hate shopping for greeting cards. I enjoy honoring a friend’s birthday, but buying one of these (often over-priced) tokens doesn’t usually represent my feelings for the person who will receive the card. This is perhaps most pronounced when I have to buy cards for my parents. I always get them cards for their birthdays and for Mother’s and Fathers’ day. For these last two occasions, the shopping gets most painful, in part because of the selection.
Cards are cloaked in a limited amount of themes, such as religious ones or syrupy affections adorned with roses or perhaps a sunset or ocean scene (all of which evoke an unsettling end-of-life theme) or ones that spell out how great mom or dad is the way a ten-year old who is just learning how to manipulate a sentence might.
I really wish these cards would represent the relationship I have with any of my four parents (mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad). Too few are funny or friendly; most are too formal or juvenile. Is it okay to reach a point where you think of your parents as friends? Apparently not. These cards even make me feel bad for not having the type of relationship suggested by these standard cards.
The Book of Psalms is the Bible’s greeting card section.
Divided in five sections (and with few exceptions), these short poem-like entries stick to a limited theme selection: Praise the lord; God, where are you?; reward me for being good; punish the wicked; a few condensed history lessons (mostly dealing with King David); and be kind to the poor.
Given all that happens in the Old Testament thus far, this restricted variety makes it seem that there are few options through which to have a relationship with God. You’d think the psalmist (or psalmists) would want to represent the different types of relationships people can have with God. Wouldn’t this encourage more people to fall in line with God (and thereby affirm his (or their) beliefs)? And if you read them over the course of a few days (as I did), the lack of variety really stands out.
The stand out here is Psalm 23, and if even if you don’t know the Bible at all, you know the lines: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (1) and “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I will fear no evil” (4). The lines continue about how good god is to those who follow him.
Although I’ve heard these lines uttered at funerals and/or in films, where characters loom over a dying character’s bedside, I had never heard one of the last lines that states that by following God, surely goodness and love will follow the person for the rest of his or her life (9). Given a lot of the rest of the Old Testament (especially the lessons learned from the Book of Job), this seems a stretch. Or perhaps just wishful thinking.
Still, it’s hard not to appreciate the nice language in these and several other psalms. And this is perhaps their greatest use—the feelings conveyed through the chosen words, regardless of how “honest” they are. In that way, they are perfect little greeting cards: they can be used for several different occasions and work to convey generalities, not specific emotions (most of the time).
I try and think of greeting cards as items that function to convey general sentiments—the real “you” gets to write what you want on the inside. More creative people can just make their cards, ones that better reflect them. If I were a better artist, maybe I would, though perhaps my parents would worry about me if I sent them something colored in with crayons.