O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me
even now I no longer recognise myself.
You know when I sit and when I rise
and when I am too tired and weak to manage either;
you perceive my thoughts from afar
even the incoherent ones
that my pain-addled brain is too exhausted to finish.
You would discern my going out
if I were able to go anywhere
and my lying down
day-in, day-out, in a dark silent room
for months on end;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my lips
you know it completely, O LORD
as well as the word that won’t come unstuck
from the tip of my tongue,
or the one I meant to say
in place of the nonsense I actually uttered.
You hem me in – behind and before
like a life-jacket in deep water, or
a safety harness on a sheer cliff face;
you have laid your hand upon me
at a time when few others
are willing, or able to do so.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths
of obscurity and loneliness,
you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn
or sink into unconsciousness,
if I settle on the far side of the sea
or in a hospital ward many miles from home,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
as the light becomes night around me,”
even this darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being:
the essence of self that (unlike so much else)
remains intact despite all I’ve been through;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb
and can make me whole again if you so choose.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body
just as they see, without loathing or disgust,
the useless, broken, pitiful husk,
that body has become.
You are not ashamed to look at me even now.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be
so though I can’t look ahead even to this afternoon
with any certainty, let alone plan
for what tomorrow, or next week, or next year might bring,
I need not fear.
You know my future
and have already provided for it.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
upon the shore, not five miles from here;
the shore that I still picture in my dreams,
although the image starts to blur with time
and I struggle to recall the sound
of waves breaking against rocks;
the taste of salt in the air;
the smell of chips and doughnuts
wafting from the burger-stands that line the sea-front.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Bold text: Psalm 139
© The Holy Bible, New International Version (Electronic Edition), 2004
Italicised text: © S.R. Gilligan, 2007