When I was 19, I moved to San Diego. Out of high school, I attended Cal State Northridge (CSUN). That first semester I decided that I needed a change of scene, so I made plans to transfer to UC San Diego, which meant dropping out of CSUN and taking classes at a junior college in San Diego. I left Los Angeles with $200 in my checking account, an apartment which I would be sharing with three strangers who had advertised on a flyer, and an interview as a customer service rep at Blockbuster Video. I didn’t get into my finances with my folks—they assumed I’d had enough money. I was known for planning ahead. But it cam up when I was talking about my plans with one of the two bosses at the comic book store where I worked. He asked, “You really only have $200 in your checking account?”
Perhaps I was just being naïve, but I wasn’t worried. I was making a decision, and I knew that I would make my way out of it somehow (if I did get into trouble).
Those first six months were rough, although I pretended otherwise to my mom. She could probably hear something in my voice on the phone, though she didn’t press me. Every month or so, she’d send a hand-written card with $40 cash in it. I had groceries for a week. Once I started working restaurants I got on my feet, and I probably won’t ever eat peanut butter sandwiches again—the food on which I subsisted for that year. You have not lived until you’ve been poor, and I mean living off of $9,700 a year poor. You won’t forget it either. Going through that builds character—it motivates you.
In the Book of Psalms, the speakers in various entries also have no issues asking (or in most cases, telling) God to take care of all these enemies. You’d think these people never had to lift a finger against the people who were constantly at their heels waiting to strike. True, in some cases they were outnumbered, but is that a reason to throw up your hands?
In the voice of David, the psalmist wants God to hurry up and take care of the wicked (5:10), wants enemies wiped out (9:6), wants bad men struck down (all of Psalm 10), and protect me from my enemies; God, it’s all up to you! (Psalm 17). There are more, but you get the idea.
Maybe some people are ill-equipped to suck things up—perhaps some situations get so bad you need help—but the way the psalmist(s) go on at times, begging to be helped and have his/their enemies vanquished, you can’t help but think, “it’s your fight, leave God out of it.”
I understand leaning on people during hard times, but unless you make a go of it on your own, you’ll never be able to walk on your own. After all, if you’re in a situation of your own making, isn’t it your responsibility to see your own way out of it? I understand that the issues addressed in a number of these psalms involve conflicts, some of which are in through the point of view of David (mostly), where’s he’s the victim. But war always happens for a reason—David was involved in his fair share of wars (on God’s behalf, no less). He had to piss off someone, so should he be surprised when events turn against him? What’s the old saying, “You made your bed, now lie in it”?
I maybe could have picked up the phone at any point in that first year in San Diego and asked for money to bail me out. My parents would have done what they could. But I’d made the decision to move there, and it was my decision to see through. I am proud of the fact that I found my way out of that challenging year. If I did receive that little help from Mom, to whom I will always be grateful. It got me over the hump, but it left the heavy lifting to me.