Yesterday I found two dead young possums in my yard. Sensing there might be more, I went investigating this morning and found a third. The two I picked up via gloves and a bag yesterday felt warm still (if fly covered), their small bodies flexible. The third I picked up today was stiff. So I am guessing one of the stray cats that claims a stretch of houses on my street probably had great fun slaying them yesterday. Only one possum was bloody, and none had been eaten.
I find myself thinking of how last night’s Psalm 7 was introduced in my Inclusive Bible translation with the line, “A frenzied musical rant, which David sang to YHWH about Cush.” I was humored because there I was, prepared to do quiet lectio out on my back porch, with my friend Adam meditating beside me — and here was an announcement that I was about to read what might better be performed as a player in a punk band.
The early prophets, into David’s day, readied the people for battle by whipping them into a frenzy through ecstatic dancing and song. I wonder if the cat that likely killed the young possums heard an inner meowed rant in its head, as the adrenaline pumped into it while it was contemplatively, quietly stalking . . .
Perhaps a cat stalking its prey is exceptionally well-suited to do lectio with Psalm 7.
What is it like to yearn for the feel of another creature’s neck breaking between your jaws as you shake it to death?
Human hunters, too, combine quiet attention with a thrill and wonder before a creature they kill — though often to skin and eat, unlike this cat who seemed interested only in the pleasure of killing these possums.
David in Psalm 7 prays to God as “a just judge, a God whose anger would blaze forth every day if you were not so forgiving! Even so, you sharpen your sword and bend and string your bow. You have prepared your deadly weapons and readied your flaming arrows.”
We need to think of an acute enemy to feel comfortable with this psalm. For many of us that ardent enemy is not another human being, but inner demons, disease, all the barriers that prevent us from truly recognizing that, as a young man put it to me yesterday, “we are all in this together!” This is something he said he reminds himself whenever he’s jarred by an encounter with someone who prefers shallow entertainment to deep thought.
Still, there’s a surge of power that ripples through all these images: the weapon-ready God and the possum killing cat and David’s frenzied rant.
Perhaps it’s easier to want to identify with the still warm dead possum lying in my gloved hand. But the cat who killed it is one of God’s creatures, too — a creature who knows a side of the mind of God, if shorn of the notion that a warrior God only pursues the mischief-makers of injustice.