Saturday, August 20, 2016

Six Reminders of Why I Need to be Humbled -- Psalm 37:1-11

Psalm 37:1-11

Throughout Psalm 37:1-11, I am reminded of the importance of love, trust in God, humility, and self-sacrifice. And the beautiful reminders in this Psalm bring a stark contrast to many areas of my life, areas where I need Christ’s renewal.

“Trust in the Lord and do good . . .” (3)
Do I wholly trust in God? I like to think that I do, but there are times when I become impatient and frustrated with matters of faith, and it is in those times that I need to trust God more. I am incapable of solving my own inner turmoil. This is something that only God can do, but I am called to cooperate in faith, and that faith is reflected in trust. To ”do good” cannot be an empty commitment made through a legalistic mindset: I am going to raise money for this because it is what a good Christian should do. This is works-based salvation, and there is nothing I can do to save myself. Jesus did that on the cross. Doing good, instead, means offering up the small moments of my day to my family and the person in front of me, loving others in the ordinary things. But this, too, can be a struggle, especially when self-will, laziness, and pride play a part.

“Take delight in the Lord . . .” (4)
Am I a joyful witness to the love of God? At times, I can be, but I have a tendency to be irritable and get angry about my faith tradition's beliefs for which I do not agree. Taking delight means dismissing these disagreements, which are non-essential, and trusting in Christ’s love for me, trusting in the gospel message. Through trust and commitment to God, irritation and anger are eclipsed by love and joy. And living a life of joy in Christ is detrimental to drawing others to Christ. By taking delight in the Gospel, I call others’ attention to the love of Jesus Christ.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him . . .” (5)
This piggybacks on verse 3 above, but in this verse, commitment in key. Have I committed every part of my life to Jesus Christ? Yes! But in that commitment, I need renewal. I am flawed, fall into sin, and lose focus on God. Commitment and trust, then, come into question when I make poor choices, focus on negativity, and become self-absorbed. Through God’s word, prayer, and community, I am reminded of and renewed in God’s love. Commitment and trust in God, for me, is more a cycle of “two-steps-forward-one-step-back”; they are a renewal process, a testing ground of faith.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him . . .” (7)
Prayer for me can be a litany of petitions and intercessions. But am I listening? Are there moments of stillness before God who is with me in prayer? Sometimes. God’s voice, that still small voice within, is waiting to be heard if I commit myself to stillness, patiently listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit. This in itself is a grace. There are times, however, when I rush through prayer and miss the moments of listening. With God (and with others, too), I need to listen more and speak less.

“Refrain from anger; do not fret -- it only leads to evil . . .” (8)
In matters of doctrine and dogma, I often get angry. As mentioned above, I take issue with many of the beliefs in my faith tradition. And my issues are not ill-informed ones. I have studied, prayed, and sought counsel regarding these issues. That there is no answer besides living within my conscience, I become angry, bitter, and fretful when confronted with teachings that I question. This anger and fret have caused mounting frustration and cultivated a field of bitterness. In order to combat the anger and fret, I have stopped studying and exposing myself to the issues that bother me, burying my head in the sand, so to speak. It is important to my family that I remain in our faith tradition, so I am trusting in God to lead me. A significant part of me wants to find a new faith tradition, one that is more in touch with people today, more accepting, more loving, more forgiving, more welcoming. But as I have been struggling with this for several years now, I have discovered that this is not about making me happy. It is about loving others more than myself, and that I have to carry the cross here, putting their needs before mine. God is telling me that his love is universal, that he knows my struggles, and that part of recreating me is through my cooperation with his call to self-sacrifice. When I become preoccupied with anger and fret over the issues, therefore, I lose focus on what really matters: I must love and trust in God above all things and offer self-sacrificial love to others.

“The meek shall inherit the land . . .” (11)

This is not only a foreshadowing of Jesus’ beatific words expressed on the mount (see Matthew 5:5), but meekness, or humility, is the antithesis of pride. If the meek shall inherit the land, then the pride-filled shall lose it. I pray for humility, and God has answered this prayer many times. But in the often-ignored nooks and crannies of my life, pride hides itself, masquerading as the light of logic and reason. Thinking through problems is necessary for survival in our world. When reason becomes the antagonist of humility, kindness, sacrifice, and love, reason is puffed-up and no longer reasonable. The Scriptures repeatedly contrast the virtues of humility with the iniquities of pride, and in every instance, the meek are blessed.