Every day during Lent, members of Oconee Street UMC will write a Lenten devotional and share with the congregation.
March 8, 2014
by Beth Gavrilles
Psalm 51: 10-12 (A Psalm of David)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
During Lent a year or two ago, Lisa suggested that we take something on instead of giving something up, and I decided to take on reading the scriptures from the Daily Lectionary. I kept it up for quite a while, too, even beyond Lent of that year. And yet, somehow, after a few months, I got out of the habit. I’m trying again this Lent, and Psalm 51 is one of the references for Saturday, March 8.
It strikes me that this is a particularly fitting passage for someone who has tried and failed to maintain a holy habit, because it’s all about what to do when you realize you’ve done wrong and turned away from God.
Not maintaining the habit of reading from the Lectionary every day is not the kind of wrong-doing that hurts others. It’s just a slight turning-away. It’s not spectacular; in fact, it’s pretty mundane and boring. But it happens over and over again. And just as water dripping onto a rock gradually erodes it, each little wrong-doing leads to a little wilting of the spirit, and contributes a little grayness to the heart.
So what a relief to read this Psalm. Yes, I’ve done wrong, and I continue to do wrong, over and over—but that’s not the end of the story. I can ask God for help. I can ask to be restored to closeness with God. I can ask for my spirit to be sustained—and I think that may be the most important part, because really, most of our opportunities for wrong-doing come with the small decisions we make every day. I know that is where I so often fail.
And in thinking about this, I realize that holy habits are one of the ways God sustains my spirit. Every time I keep that habit, that’s one more time I choose doing right instead of wrong, one more time I keep focused on God instead of turning away. And the more that happens, the stronger my spirit is, and stronger my spirit is, the more I maintain that habit—a virtuous circle.
Dear God, We so often turn away from you, sometimes in a big spectacular way, but sometimes in lots of small, mundane ways. It makes our hearts and our spirits weary. We are so grateful that we, with David, can ask for another chance: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within us. Do not cast us away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us a willing spirit. Amen