If you’re reading this post on its day of release, Gem and I are near Munich, Germany leading a two-day retreat for a group of U.S. Navy chaplains and RPs on the theme of “unhurried leadership.” We would welcome your prayers for us and these leaders.
One of the biblical words that is a rich part of how we understand unhurried life and unhurried leadership is “blessed” or “blessing.” It can sound like a cliché word because of shallow ways it has been used in the past. But to be blessed is to live into (and out of) the rich abundance of God and his kingdom.
So I always pay attention when I come across this word in scripture. A while back, I saw it again in Psalm 32. “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit (vs. 1-2).”
It is a happy, life-giving place to be at home in God’s deep mercy and rich grace. We are blessed here. In Jesus Christ, my every offense has been forgiven and my every wrong has been erased. God does not want to hold anything against us. Rather than pretending in self-deceit that I’ve done nothing wrong (or failed to do something right), I can walk freely in the light of God’s presence. It is not blessed to harbor deceit in my spirit.
David says as much. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on my; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer (vs. 3-4).”
If I pretend I never do wrong or try to hide my shortcomings, like David, my life becomes shaky and unstable. My confidence wanes. I become weak like on a summer afternoon upstairs in our home when the air conditioning is out. My courage fades. God’s hand feels heavy on me. It’s not the heaviness of shame. It’s the heaviness of glory, the heaviness of a loving father urging his child to be free.
Instead of pretending, I’m free to acknowledge those things I’ve done that should not have done, and those things I haven’t that I should have. This is a way to freedom and courage in the presence of God. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin (vs. 5).”
Walking in the light doesn’t mean never doing anything wrong. Walking in the light means being honest about the whole of my life in God’s presence. When I have stumbled or even willfully crossed a line, I must not hide in the darkness. There is no forgiveness in the darkness of pretending. There is only forgiveness in the light of acknowledged, confessed sin. And this is a very blessed place.
So from this place of blessed freedom and confidence, David invites us: “Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (vs. 6-7).”
The faithful still sin. The faithful still need to pray when they awaken to bad choices they’ve made. This is how I read “while you may be found.” I’m not really seeking God when I’ve chosen to be wayward or foolish. But when I wake up to my empty acts, I can immediately pray to the Lord.
God hasn’t any interest in my wallowing in shame and condemnation for some period of time before I come clean and come into the light. God delights in mercy. He longs to be gracious. And this is his posture in the very moment we awaken to something wrong in our lives.
I love that instead of hiding my wrongs, I can hide myself in God. He is my hiding place. He is a safe and protected place to be. I will be delivered from everything that stands against me.
When I come into the light, God reminds me: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you (vs. 8-9).”
God wants to train me to live in the goodness and blessedness of his ways. Perhaps we can personalize these words. Why not hear your own name in them?
“[Name], I see your waywardness and your wrongdoing. If you are willing, I will teach you how to really live. I will counsel you from a place of love. I don’t want to control you like a mule. I want to lead you like a child. Let me lead you, [Name].”
- Is there some way or another in which you’ve been tempted to hide something in your life? What is that hiding doing to your perspectives, your emotions, your sense of well-being?
- What would it look like to open your heart and speak honestly to God words of confession?
- If it helps, you could look for a trusted friend to whom you might try on this advice from the apostle James: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).”