Twice in the past few days I came across this verse about the Lord setting “my feet in a spacious place”.

For several reasons this verse is relevant to me right now.

First, I’ve heard a number of different conversations in this country I’m visiting (India), and there are a few common themes and topics that recur. One of these is the very high price of land. In some villages, one acre is selling for over $200,000. It is unthinkable, because just 10 years ago, the people of this village were boasting that nothing in their village had changed for at least one hundred years. But that is no longer the case.

One billion people live in a space about one third the size of the U.S. Land is in high demand and in short supply, so the price is high. But the high prices also mean that there is an affluent middle and upper class that can afford the exorbitant prices. I’ve seen condominiums in large cities that sell for $200,000-$300,000. Perhaps for the U.S. it doesn’t sound too high; after all, it’s pretty close to the median price of a house in the U.S. But here, it’s a very high price to pay, and even though there are those who can pay it, there are millions who cannot. And another thing, the type of housing, the quality, the cleanliness, the type of housing—nowhere matches what most of the U.S. lives in—even for these expensive flats. You would be surprised.

So the seeking of a “spacious place” is something in demand here.

Also, as I travel and stay in different homes, and are accommodated very well and I’m very thankful, we are also a family of five staying with other families in a highly populated country. Finding a private place and quiet time isn’t as easy as it sounds. On a personal level, we are also seeking a “spacious place”.

But as I came across that verse and thought about it, I realized that spacious place isn’t just about the external—it’s also internal. It isn’t just about the physical, it’s also spiritual. We’re not only promised abundant living, but also spacious living.

I read Psalm 31, and found it even more meaningful, as I see many around me who are very poor, with very little belongings, who live hard lives; the untouchable caste who live with contempt and scorn and difficulties – it’s like I am seeing verses 9-14. I read two stories in the newspaper just two days ago of a poor man being burned, leaving behind his wife and four children, his mother and his sister. These people are desperate, turning to anyone who will listen and help. I read another story of a person’s hands being cut off. Another story I read is of a farmer, 60 years old, who was devoured by a tiger and her two cubs, and his children were searching for him—he was late coming home from the fields— and saw the tiger eating their father. The untouchables live in “utter comtempt of their neighbors… people flee from them.” Desperation.

An elderly woman came very close to me, brushing against my arm, with her hands open, begging for coins. I’ve seen so many elderly women begging. I’ve seen many elderly women working, carrying loads on their heads, or walking in the market. I can imagine their life has been the same day after day—work, clean, wash—with little hope of anything else. I can’t imagine how depressing that might be.

Verse 6 talks about worthless idols and clinging to the Lord… I am in a country full of idols everywhere. I mean everywhere. Each house has statues and pictures of various gods. In the house I am staying in right now, I’ve counted over 20 statues or pictures. Some larger, some smaller. One relative’s house we visited today has a 4 foot statue of Lord Krishna in their “puja room” (some homes have a little room set aside as their worship room). My father in law arises each morning and spends one hour worshipping. Loud. He wakes me, perhaps the neighbors. Nobody complains. He says the same things each day. He reads from a prayer book. He goes out to the front porch, and begins speaking there. Then he comes indoors and says some more, then goes back outside. He sings for a bit. Then he comes to his puja room, and continues with more prayers and singing. He lights incense. I’m not sure what else is part of the ritual (candles?) Fresh flowers are brought in from the yard every morning by the servant as an offering to the gods—the flowers are placed by various statues and in the puja room. This is his morning ritual and has been the case for many years.

At least I have to ask myself—am I this consistent? Are American Christians? I’m not trying to take the side of Hinduism, just pointing out where I see I am lacking. I see a spiritual people and a country that doesn’t hide its beliefs. Yes, Hinduism is more of a culture than a creed… perhaps that is why it is more open? I’m not sure.

I know that singing and making loud noises and praying out loud outdoors on a daily basis wouldn’t be accepted in the states. Here in India, at least where I have visited, the homes are quite close together. You can hear very well what is going on in the neighbor’s yard or home, even! (Be careful what you say and do!!!)

And this is the case for many homes. Hinduism is part of the culture. In the large expensive apartment complex I stayed in (where over 1,000 families own flats), a statue of one of the Hindu gods is in the lobby as you walk in. And this is the usual case. Go to the doctor’s office, a department store, restaurant, street billboards… and you’ll see the same thing.

Each taxi or auto rickshaw has a small statue in the dashboard of a god. Once on the way home from the airport we hired a van whose driver happened to be Christian, so he had a picture of Jesus on the dashboard.

I can’t imagine this kind of overt spirituality would fly in America, where all kinds of freedom-from-religion groups would sue. But you know, it isn’t like that here. Fascinating, isn’t it? And this is a Hindu country. And what about America… where we are supposed to be able to enjoy the freedom to worship…. How far has this country gone from whence it began….

It’s part of the culture. We are the oddballs here, since we don’t visit temples, or have pictures of gods in our homes, etc, and of course none of this makes sense to anyone practicing this religion. Yes, I can see a difference in some cases on how we are treated as converted Christians (our families are Hindus). Some people see themselves as superior and we as inferior. Some don’t understand and criticize or ridicule it. Some don’t say anything but frown heavily inwardly without speaking it. Some are more hostile outwardly. It comes out in various relationships—personal or familial or just the stranger on the street.

So I’m drinking in this psalm on various levels. I feel attacked in some ways (not overtly or in a bad way)… just I feel it in the way some people behave. I see that this is a country besieged by idols (verse 21). I feel verses 9-13 in a different way, in my own life. I feel as one accused (verse 20). But in this psalm are some incredible promises. He promises to be a refuge, to deliver, to not allow his beloved to be put to shame, to put our feet in a spacious place… a place of freedom, rest, peace… full of His goodness and promises. He is a real, living God who hears and delivers. I’m not crowded. I have freedom. God’s love is freeing.

Psalm 31

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,[a]
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, 
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and lie silent in the grave.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from the intrigues of men;
in your dwelling you keep them safe
from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed his wonderful love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.

23 Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD.


Sharing with Emily at Imperfect Prose