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The weight, the darkness of our Hinterlands

Welsh coast - photographer Lewis Fackrell
I've been watching "Hinterlands" - a BBC show on Netflix. It follows Tom Mathias and his detectives as they solve murders in rural Wales. (Really, really rural.)

Mathias, the lead character, is a man being crushed by the weight of guilt and sin in his life. It has forced him to live alone, in a shabby trailer. When he's not working, he's running - literally.

The whole tone of the show is dark. A woman who knows she works too much, but still tries to reach out to her teen daughter. A wife who knows of an affair between her husband and sister, the pain of which drives her mad in a way that Shakespeare would have been proud to write. "Home" for these people is not a sanctuary, despite the glorious scenery. No, home is truly the hinterland, "an area lying beyond what is visible or known."

Mute and silent before the wicked,
I refrain from good things
But my sorrow increases;
my heart smolders within me.

The notes for Psalm 39 tell us that this lamentation is one of a leader, now mortally wounded. Like any soldier, he knows the price of service, but now, facing death, he is weighed down - not by the injury - but its aftermath.

All of us carry scars and bruises. Some "scars" we choose ourselves: a tattoo or piercing, the scars of a C-section. Some scars life gives us whether we want them or not: a broken heart, both literally and figuratively.

Man goes about as a mere phantom;
they hurry about; although in vain,
he heaps us stores without knowing for whom.

Think of the parents who have begun to raise families, only to have that privilege taken from them. A mother dies from breast cancer or a young father in an accident. They did not know for whom they were storing riches for - they will not dance at a daughter's wedding or hold a grandson.

I promised myself that I would move far away from my own hinterlands this year. In many ways I have. But like the psalmist, the pain of the aftermath - well, I cannot drop that by the side of the road and hope it disappears. As the characters in the show mentioned above learn, our most rugged hinterlands lie within our own hearts. The rough and wild land where God has placed us: we can navigate and learn and come to love the place, or we can curse it. Either way, it is our hinterland and we must come to terms with its terrible beauty.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
You are my only hope.
From all my sins deliver me...


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