Whenever I walk in a place, I begin to take dominion over it, to make the place my own. Habitual paths create a familiarity that is settling. The maple tree at that bend in the path is the one with the squirrel's nest about 20 feet up, with the bent trunk testifying to some past storm; the boulder, just there, retaining the warmth of the Spring sun even at dusk; that robin could just be the same that walked across my path yesterday, just here; the cooler breeze in this dip in the trail a familiar change, one I've felt before. You see, I know this path, this lake, these birds, trees and breezes, the rise and fall of topography, the winter sun and summer sun, the cacophonous sound of the geese, just in from other parts, the distant sound of traffic, of the world waking up, the smell of breakfast through an open window, that woman who never looks up as she passes, the gossiping women who can be heard clear across the lake.
In this place, in my neighborhood, I can put names to what I see. Street names like Godfrey, Gainsbororugh, Winthrop, and Redmond, or family names like Vaughn, Mangum, and Parker, or a love-sloppy dog named Sandy or a matronly cat named Rachel. Deer crossing the neighbors back yard. A racoon climbing a pine tree. A pink ribbon on a mailbox and a just married sign on my neighbors' front door. The dappled light of early morning sun on my terrace. A chipmunk hurriedly chewing and storing seeds before diving back into his den under my steps. A male cardinal slinging birdseed to the dove below the feeder. A barking dog. A hoot owl? Green leaves against azure blue sky. Trucks passing on. The newspaper waiting on the driveway. The long sigh of my still sleeping child. All familiar, all deeply settling.
In Psalm 1 we are told that the blessed life is one "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season. . . ." The simile is one of settling in, of being rooted, of drawing sustenance from being in one place, of being in the right place. The blessed man is described as one who finds "his delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Reading the Psalms this side of Christ's coming, of God's revelation of Himself in the perfect man, we understand that the psalm commends settling into the full revelation of God, the perfect expression of which is found in Christ. Matthew Henry says that "[t]o meditate in God's word is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with a close application of mind, a fixedness of thought, until we are suitably affected with those things and experience the savour and power of them in our hearts." In other words, we settle into God's revelation. We roll around in it, if you will.
Conversely, when the psalm speaks of the wicked, it plainly portrays them us unsettled, unfixed, as "chaff that the wind drives away," lacking roots. In fact, Henry says that the word wicked "means such as are unsettled, aim at no certain end and walk by no certain rule, but are at the command of every lust and at the beck and call of every temptation." The wicked, the unblessed, the unsettled and uprooted, pass through life like wind, blown about, never really knowing God nor His world.
If being blessed is being settled in the full revelation of God, then it means first being settled in God's Word, in His special revelation about Himself. And yet as paramount as knowing God's Word is, there is more to it than this. Part of God's revelation, part of what I am settling into, is His world. Psalm 19 aptly links the law of God, his special revelation, with Creation, His general revelation. The sense you have in reading this psalm is of a person who not only meditated on God's law but on God's world. This writer can move easily from "[t]he heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. . . ." to "[t]he law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. . . ." The Psalmist meditates on Word and World. Love for Word is inseparable from love of World.
What does the psalm say about Creation? It says "[d]ay to day [it] pours out speech, and night to night [it] reveals knowledge." If I listen, I can hear two melodies ---- one in a major key that tells me what is right, good, and true; one in a minor key that tells me what is bent, gone wrong, and untrue. Part of the deep settledness of the Christian life is learning to love the things of the World, to see in their luminous particularity God's revelation of all that is true, good, and beautiful, to see the things of the world (to invert the words of the song) grow strangely bright, as we turn our eyes upon Jesus, as we settle into, sink roots into, the fullness of His revelation to us.
Think about that, next time you're out walking. Settle in.