“Lord, hear my prayer, and in your faithfulness heed my supplications;
answer me in your righteousness.
My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate.
I remember the times past; I muse upon all your deeds;
I consider the works of your hands.
I spread out my hands to you; my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land.
Show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you.”
from Psalm 143
In Idylls of the King, Tennyson’s Victorian version of Arthurian legend, many find themselves lost in a desolate land, or attempting to conquer it. Typically, the wasteland is all at once lawless, lifeless, chaotic, and meaningless. It is a place void of music yet full of noise, empty of purpose but ever-warring. The wastelands exist on the outskirts of Arthur’s kingdom, and though many attempt to conquer its various tyrants, it is an ever-present reality.
The Psalmist seems to be saying the same thing about his own soul: it is a place of desolation, a thirsty land. The absence of his Creator is a journey into chaos and meaninglessness, a journey away from order and justice, music and purpose. Sabbath is a time to echo the Psalmist’s words, leaving behind the wasteland of our souls: “Show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you.”