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Psalm on a Bathroom Wall

(a Steve Orr scripture reflection)


I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a restaurant named Algiers when I first saw the poem. It was scrawled on the bathroom wall. There’s a lot I could write about that restaurant: great Middle Eastern food, convivial gatherings of friends, and some truly outstanding coffee. But Algiers is long gone. What remains are good memories. 


And the poem—exactly as it appeared on that wall. 


home had took me 

to where too much time 

had locke me in 

in my wrong ways 

and the fumbles of 

a memory, and left me 

where I first began 

begging: "Christ let loose 

these ghosts from my bones." 


I’ve thought a lot about that poem over the years, wondering what the author meant for the reader to get from it. Eventually, I realized he wasn’t thinking about the reader at all. It’s too raw. It was scrawled on a bathroom wall, not published in a prestigious literary journal like the New England Review. This guy was hurting—deeply. 


It brings to mind another poem: this week’s passage from Psalms. It’s almost impossible to read Psalm 22 and not think of Jesus. In fact, Jesus quoted from its first verse while He hung on the cross. Psalm 22 is a poem about affliction, being rejected, sinking into deep despair, and crying out for salvation. And in that way, it is much like the poem on the bathroom wall. 

But where the bathroom poets stops, the psalmist continues. Psalm 22 goes on to become about God responding to that cry for deliverance, about rescue and salvation. And today our God—the same God of whom the psalmist wrote, the same God to whom Jesus cried from the cross—will hear our cry. He will not despise our affliction. He will not hide His face from our deep need. 

From the depths of his circumstances, the bathroom poet called on Jesus. He knew who could save him, and he wasn’t afraid to write that name high up on a wall where many would see the savior he claimed. 

If I could find the author of that poem, I would thank him for his reminder that God can be called on in all circumstances, even when—perhaps, most especially when—things seem their worst. 



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