Family Liturgies

Psalm 22 & Treading Water

by Joe Greemore


Scripture Reading: Psalm 22:26-27, 30-31 (The Voice)
“Those who are suffering will eat and be nourished; those who seek Him will praise the Eternal. May your hearts beat strong forever! Those from the farthest reaches of the earth will remember and turn back to look for the Eternal; All the families of the nations will worship You…Our children will serve Him; future generations will hear the story of how the Lord rescued us. They will tell the generations to come of the righteousness of the Lord, of what He has done.”
– Psalm 22:26-27; 30-31, The Voice

We watched Annie for the first time as a family this weekend. Most everyone has heard of Annie, the orphan girl, who went from rags to riches; she’s practically a cultural icon, and although her story is fictitious, her name seems to be a household one. Her story being that of the American Cinderella, it’s no wonder one of my daughters asked, “Daddy, is Annie a real girl?”

There’s a scene in the movie where Daddy Warbucks, Annie’s soon-to-be-adoptive-father, is floating in his Olympic-sized swimming pool when Sandy, Annie’s dog (whom she herself previously rescued), jumps headlong into the pool to save the apparently drowning Warbucks, intending to save his life. Much shouting ensues, during which it is made abundantly clear to Annie that her dog is to get out of the pool: Warbucks is not drowning, but exercising.

Sometimes, in marriage and family life, when we do that thing, when we tread water together, I wonder how easy it is for children, for parents, to tell the difference between life-enriching exercise and fighting for survival. Or like Sandy, do the two become indistinguishable? Does it even matter?

It’s amazing how much you can get done between Friday and Monday when you try hard. We built an outdoor garden plot, had dinner with friends, rearranged a bedroom, hosted a guest we hadn’t seen in years, whom the kids had never met, and yet whom we insisted on calling “uncle,” walked a river where we saw a real snake, picked flowers, went to a movie, and watched orphan Annie. Either Spring fever has hit us big time (and it probably has), or we are trying really hard to do this thing called life together.

Looking back on the busyness of the weekend, I can’t imagine life in ten years with teenagers in the home. If this is the model I set for my kids when they’re young, they’re either going to be hyper-active or desperately hungry for deep relational time when they get older. The psalm above talks about those who are hungry eating and being nourished, like Annie and Sandy.

Maybe I’m alone here, and I’m the only father setting a break-neck pace for his family because it’s easier than slowing down and just being present and ‘real’ with each other. I know I want my children to be nourished, physically and emotionally, so they can make good decisions, build deep, lasting relationships, and love their mommy and daddy as they grow. Part of what they’ll need to do that is faith in God, parents they can trust and relate to, and to feel they are unconditionally loved and accepted.

Daddy Warbucks did need to be rescued, just like Annie and Sandy, but he didn’t yet realize it. He needed to be delivered from his own self-reliance and to invite his newfound friends into his life to experience deep community together, not ‘shoo’ them away or keep them around for superficial, self-serving purposes. My prayer as a father is that I will do more than tread water or mark time when it comes to meeting the needs of my family. I pray for strength to share with them all the good that God has done in my life, even if, especially if, it means treading water together.

Questions for Reflection
-What are our families hungry for today? Could it be more family time or a Sabbath day together?
-From what are our families suffering?
-What are our children and spouses asking for if we will slow down and listen?

Listening Activity
As a family, read Psalm 22:26-27 and 30-31 together.
1) Ask each other how we can look for God.
2) Invite one other to tell how you have seen God’s goodness in your life recently.
3) Encourage each other to talk about what has been hard lately, then talk about how those challenges can be shared. With each other. With God.
4) Take delight in how God is feeding you through one another and this time together.

God of all love, you remind us that you care for us and long for our abundant living. Grant that we may be transparent, first with those whom we love, and then with the whole world, and in this transparency, may others see the light of your love. Amen.

Joe and Shelby have three loveable children: Corbany (6), Addyson (4), and Greyson (2). Through life and ministry in Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa, the Greemores have learned the value of good friendships, hard work, and a deep trust in God’s providence and grace. Shelby is an Elementary Educator and stay-at-home mom, and Joe is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA serving as pastor at the historic First Baptist Church or Waterloo, Iowa. The Greemores practice faith, life together, and grace daily.


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