Editing a Path to Praise
By Anthony Casperson

Although I haven’t seen it for quite some time, there was a YouTube channel that regularly showcased how editing styles could make a difference in movie trailers. With the right background music and choice of movie clips, a trailer could be cut to make the film appear to be anything from a romantic comedy to a slasher flick. (Insert your own joke about dating horror stories here.)

The point for the videos was to express how editing makes a difference to our perceptions. And ultimately, to remind casual viewers of how important editing can be.

As a person who has written a couple of books now, and who edits the audio for my own sermons, I can attest to the fact that editing is important. Trust me, no one wants to hear the bloopers that I cut out of the sermons.

I was reminded this week of how important editors can be through events in my own life. And the first surprise for this connection comes from the fact that it all started while I cried in the shower Sunday morning. (Yay, for the “joy” of living with depression.)

Now we come to the second surprise to the connection. After once again lamenting for how regularly suffering like my current medical condition happens to me, I went to read the bible for my daily devotions. I’ve been in Psalms recently—because that’s where you go when you need to deal spiritually with emotions. And that day, I came to Psalm 22.

Y’know, the one which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

Well, my suffering self put my theological self to the side. Instead of seeing the Christologically-focused perspective that looks forward to the cross of Jesus, I felt for David, the psalm’s suffering author. I was living the distance and separation that cries out at the beginning of the ancient song.

And though the psalm ends with praise for the God who is there even when we don’t feel it, my arms didn’t want to lift that sentiment.

Glancing away from the words that called me to join my voice to that praise, my eyes fell onto the number of the next psalm. Twenty-three. The psalm about which I probably know the most—considering that one of those couple of books which I’ve written has its first two chapters dig deeply into that song.

I remembered that the point of Psalm 23 is that whether it’s the hilltops or the valley of death-like shadow down which our path treads, it is called right by our Shepherd. He leads us down the righteous path that takes us to his glory, our growth, and the growth of those around us.

The sorrowful chord of Psalm 22 fell into harmony with the Psalm 23’s words to the member of the flock who walks where thieves/predators hide and steal and kill and destroy. Yet still, I didn’t want to join in with the song of praise.

Continuing my flight from the praise-filled music, I tripped over the beginning of Psalm 24, which I was scheduled to read on Tuesday. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

In my refusal to join in praise, I was struck with the same idea that hit Job at the end of the book bearing his name. That place where God spoke directly to the man and asked him where he was when God laid the foundations of the world.

Or another way of putting it comes from Jeremiah. God is the Potter and we are the clay. Who are we to ask whether we are made for glorious purposes or inglorious ones? Joyful lives on the lush green hills, or sorrowful lives in the deep darkness of the valley.

Who are we to ask?

It was then that my battered body fell into the melody. Praise arose while tears fell. From feeling forsaken, to witnessing the diverging paths (while being called down the darker one), and finally reminded that I belong to the King of glory who forged my path from the beginning of the world.

I couldn’t help but join the heavenly chorus.

While still humming the melody, I thought about how this whole thing was only possible because of the person who gathered these songs into this order. The editor. The God-directed editor about whom we think very little as we move from psalm to psalm.

There had to be a reason why the editor placed these songs in this order. And perhaps this crescendo for a path to praise was the reason. This was my thought on that Sunday morning.

But that was only the psalms for Sunday through Tuesday.

For the rest of this week, I read Psalms 25-27 as well. (Sure, Psalm 28 would be today’s devotional reading, but I had to write this blog sometime.) And these psalms continued my awe in the editing, all along the week’s winding path of sorrow.

Psalm 25 continues the praise for the path which God calls right and righteous. David cries out for God to show him his ways. And adds in verse 10 that the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. Grace and truth. Two words which regularly attest to the literal presence of God throughout the bible.

Thursday’s reading was a cry for vindication. Not in the trustworthy statement of the psalmist, but that David had walked with integrity. He’d followed his Shepherd up to that day. And in verse 11 says that he will continue to walk with integrity down the path.

And finally reaching Psalm 27, we see the question of whom shall David fear. Just as we saw in Psalm 23:4, where he said that he’d fear no evil. And this lack of fear isn’t because of David’s bravery, but because the Lord—his Shepherd—is with him.

The connection between the two psalms continues in 27:4 when David says that there was one thing for which he asked of the Lord: that he dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. Words that almost perfectly match the end of Psalm 23, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The path to sorrow-filled praise continued throughout my week. All because some unnamed, unknown—and honestly, un-thought-of—editor did their God-ordained job. The editing truly changed my reading of these psalms. Something that likely could be continued among the rest of Israel’s ancient songbook, with the right perspective of the reader.

Thank you, editor, for doing the work of God in placing these songs in this order. But more importantly, I lift my praise to you, God, for this week of songs. Let my voice join the chorus of praise down this sorrowful, yet righteous path.

And hopefully, as those who read these words go to witness the psalms I read this week, they too might find the path to praise which was edited long before I wrote (and edited) the words for this blog post.