Friday, November 26, 2010

A Melancholy Pelican

It was bound to happen. The best songwriter the world has ever known . . . lost it there for a minute. Lost me there for a minute. David (you know, sheep farmer turned royalty) has given us so many great word pictures in his music. But this one? I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around it.

“I am like a melancholy pelican.” What? A melancholy what? I didn’t know they even had pelicans in the Sinai desert. As far as I can tell, the closest body of water David may have visited was the Dead Sea. And fish don’t even visit the Dead Sea. What would a pelican be doing hanging around a vegetarian lake like that one?

Even if David read about pelicans in his wildlife scrolls, what made him think that they are emotionally depressed creatures? Well, of course, the obvious thing is how hungry they’d have to be trying to dive for non-existent fish in the Dead Sea. And then there’s the whole humiliating experience of being stuck beak-first in salty mud once you completed that 9.5 flying forward one and a half somersault pike. That happened to me once. I don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe David just ran out of logical analogies by the time he got to his 102nd Psalm. He had to be worn out coming up with lyrics for new worship songs all the time. I mean, look at me. I’m only into my fifth or sixth blog here and I’m already reduced to talking about birds. I don’t even like birds.

I decided to get to the bottom of this. It could just be a translation thing. There are so many versions of the Bible out now, maybe the guy who put together the one I like to read lives near a grove of mulberry trees and can’t get a moment’s peace and quiet for all the fowl racket in his backyard. If that’s the case, he probably daydreams about melancholy birds, picturing them as too depressed to tweet.

So I looked up this verse in other translations. Some say “vulture of the wilderness.” Yeah. That sounds just like a pelican to me. Sheesh. Another said “desolate owl of the waste places.” Well, if I was an owl living in a waste place – what is that, like a garbage dump? – I’d feel desolate, too. It still makes me think that David may have slept through his ornithology classes, if he thought that owls and vultures and pelicans could all be stand-ins for one another.

My husband grew up on the Gulf Coast of central Florida. We’ve watched a lot of pelicans dinging around in the waters there. They all looked pretty happy to me. Of course, there ‘s quite a vast supply of seafood there to keep ‘em fat and sassy (which is an old Southern expression for feelin’ fine.) So, maybe our sheep loving, psalm writing, kingdom ruling buddy David was in such a funk when he penned Psalm 102 that he felt like, excuse the expression, a fish out of water. Or a pelican in the desert.

Well, now we have something I can relate to. There have been some pretty low points in my life since I moved back to this part of the Sonoran desert. I’ve felt dried out and displaced many times. And I usually rant and rave at God, too, when my beak is stuck in the mud. David accuses God in verse 10 of picking him up and casting him away, even though it was really his enemies who were making his life so miserable. You gotta give him some credit for being gutsy, though. He didn’t mince words when he was ticked off at life, blaming his Creator. He put it out there, got it all off his chest, and the next thing you know-- right there in the same psalm—he starts talking about how good and strong and merciful God is.

The truth is, when I need to cry it’s one of the best things I can do to reduce my anxiety or fear or anger. I just need a safe place to vent. Sometimes friends can help with that, but usually it’s just me and God alone with a fresh box of Kleenex. All of this makes me realize God prefers honesty to bogus claims of loyalty. He can handle it when I don’t trust Him. He never stops being God just because I get lost and forget who I am. And once I’ve cried it out, He “satisfies my mouth with good so that my youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s – strong, overcoming, soaring!” (Psalm 103:5)

I guess it’s okay to start out as a dysfunctional sea bird. But it's a relief to know I'm one good cry away from soaring like an eagle.


  1. This is fantastic, Eula, and just what I needed. Not that I've ever been beak down in the mud. No, not me!

  2. Thanks, Sue and Liz! I love that line, Liz!