Tuesday, October 10, 2017

// new series: psalm 51 //

After the incredibly busy spring/summer I had, I’m ashamed to admit that my Bible reading was largely gone by the wayside. One of my greatest character flaws is that I lack ‘stick-to-itiveness' in general, and as my tired little self grew more and more worn out, for some reason I set aside something very necessary. It requires immense mental effort for me to be out and about with people (don’t underestimate the work it takes for an introverted nerd to portray some semblance of ‘normalcy’) and concentrating on God’s word at the end of the day is harder than just looking through Instagram and going to sleep. It’s no excuse, of course, but that’s how it went.

  However, now all of that busyness is over and I’m trying to get started again, slowly, by reading one passage over and over. Don’t get me wrong, I still am working on getting it back into my routine, as much as my life can be called a routine. However, I’m hoping that by blogging about my thoughts on the passage, I will have an incentive to do better. 

 Psalm 51

 This is the great repentant psalm of David after his sin with Bathsheba. It’s such an emotional, but eloquent, lament for the transgression he’s committed against God. His plea for cleansing and renewal is one that should be echoed in our hearts today.

It’s ingrained in human nature to pass the blame, to look at other people’s problems before our own, to excuse our behavior by citing the sins of someone else. And this tendency is good at disguising itself in claims of righteous indignation, of telling the truth, of fighting for justice- of love, even. How many times have you thought about someone’s wrongdoing, out of genuine concern, but while ignoring the things that need to be fixed in your own heart and life? I do it All. The. Time. And I’m pretty sure you do too. Of course, we have a level of duty to help others recognize their sins too - but that means actively calling them out on things and mentoring them through the process, neither of which are particularly effective if your own life is kind of a mess.

And that is what struck me first in this psalm, as David is owning his sin and begging for forgiveness from God. 

  Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Psalm 51:1-4

Look at the pronouns- ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘my’, and ‘thy’, ‘thee’ ‘thou’. This is between David and God, no-one else. No-one to hide behind, no-one to blame. Keep in mind, my study bible notes that a year has passed since the incident occurred. I suspect David had done his fair share of blaming, of faking everything was fine, of acting as though his sin had never happened. But in the psalm, he’s reached the point where he’s ready to stand bare before the Almighty and say ‘I’ve sinned against you and I’m throwing myself on your mercy’. 

The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David (in 2 Samuel 12) to deliver the now well-known story of a man who stole someone else’s only prized lamb. When David expressed outrage at the tale, Nathan indicted him- 

‘Thou art the Man.’. 

It was through the boldness of Nathan’s storytelling that David finally faced the reality of his wrongdoing. He’s reached a point where he’s ready beg the Lord for forgiveness and for help to go on. And it is this that leads to the rest of the Psalm. I hope you’ll join me as I plan to explore the rest over the next few weeks! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

// looking away //

As a writer, I cherish a desire to lighten this  dark world a bit, through words strung together as well as I can. Whether that’s to enlighten someone’s mind or to lighten the burden of their heart, I take the command to be a ‘light in the world’ seriously when it comes to the task that I think God has set for my life. Not as seriously as I should, maybe- but it guides my growth, and encourages me to try harder, to write more, to be… less lazy. Ahem.

However, as I watch the world spiral, I often become jaded. It’s an undeniable reality that goodness and light are hard to find in this planet we call home. We writers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to inspiration for all that is cruel, dark and twisted. In the face of it, happy little stories seem trite. Sure, ‘Love What Matters’ and other places highlighting the simple acts of goodness that everyday people are doing are wonderful. They are doing something very, very necessary, in my opinion. But when I zoom out and think about the big picture, it’s easy to brush them aside. It’s beautiful, what people do for good. But it doesn’t seem to stop the darkness.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my role models, as Christians, as people and of course, as authors. Their burden is my burden… it’s a beautiful thing to know our work is all united in its common cause. However, when I begin focusing on what I see around me, the interconnectedness of the devil’s web, I begin to doubt their calling and mine. Tolkien’s high fantasy, insisting on the prevalence of good at the end of every desperate struggle, begins to seem näive. Lewis’ claim that, in the heart of image-bearing man is a thirst for truth, rings hollow in my ears. Even Solomon and Paul, telling me in scripture that God has set understanding in man, that they may be without excuse for their willful ignorance and depravity, just crushes me a little lower.

What good am I in the face of this? What good are my words and ideas, made over from words and ideas people of God have been spinning since the beginning of time?

Ah, there it is. Even in the beginning it was light against dark. It was Noah against the world, building not a story but an ark. It was the prophets, crying out. It was my very Savior, telling parables to the people gather round him while knowing they would shout for his death before they ever understood his meaning. And on and on, it’s always been so. Our time is not unique in it's struggle, not really. It’s always been a few against many. The word of God against deafened hearts. And ever it has been the few that hear and come. The tale of a life spent for God doesn’t have to be one of huge grandeur or scope, one of thousands coming and lives being turned upside down.

It could be one person who reads a book and begins to question, to search

It could be one person who can finally believe they aren’t alone, that their broken heart can mend.

It could even just be me, learning to know God so I can write Him into my stories and essays and heart. 

When Tolkien began his epic tales, I don’t think he had an idea that they would change the world. He just wanted to build the world he saw in his mind, and to tell it to his boys before bed. I don’t think it was meant to be a monumental work of literature, it was meant to be a story. A  story into which he poured the truth that framed his life. It was vastly important to him, but I doubt he expected it to be so important to the millions of people that have since read his tale of valor and baseness, vying in a death grip for the rule of Middle Earth. 

So was he naive to think it’s so simple? That the good actions of a tiny hobbit can really matter in the face of the mighty Mount Doom? Or isn’t that what the stories are that God chose to give us in his Word- stories of little people doing big things through and for Him?

So today, as yet another headline shoots us in the face, as the political clamor ceaselessly cudgels our ears, as your own heart begins to sink a little and doubt, like mine has-

Stop staring evil in the face and look up, away, to goodness. To the goodness for which our souls really do long. If you don’t have the answers, look to that truth. If you don’t have love, look to Christ on the cross. Why is it so hard to realize that our problem isn’t the evil we see, it’s the way we are looking at it? We see through a glass, and all that. We have to learn to stop trusting our own eyes so very much and to trust His, to do every little thing we can. The was my mind works is to see things in webs, so to speak- all the horrible things connecting and connecting until I get completely overwhelmed and apathetic, as though nothing can be done. But the good things do that too! They connect and grow and build on themselves. No-one is an island, and everything we do for good or ill can directly change the world.  Just as Samwise says, the good is there and it is worth fighting for.

I’m writing to myself, you know. I know all this in my head (clearly, since I’ve written it). But do I believe it? In other words, am I acting on it? Not really so much. But I want to. And I hope you do too. 

'For God has not given us a spirit of fear; 
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' 
2 Timothy 1:7