by Beth Gavrilles
Feb. 21, 2015
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
I love this particular line from Psalm 25. When I read it, I hear it set to music by the great English Renaissance composer William Byrd. We used to sing it in the choir at my former church, Stratford Street United Church in Boston (which is very much like Oconee Street, and not only because they’re both named after streets; it’s also a small church with a big, welcoming heart.)
In Byrd’s stately composition, the plea to God is repeated in a sort of musical plaiting of voices that weave in and out before resolving in the declaration “for thou art the God of my salvation.”
When I read these verses this week, however, I noticed something about the words. The psalmist does not ask God to “show me your way” or “teach me your path”—the words are plural. There is more than one way; there is more than one path.
I find this both a relief and somewhat alarming. How much easier would it be for us if there were only one path? It would be hard to stick to it, for sure, but we would know what to do. We would have a set script to follow, tried and tested by others before us.
When there are many paths, how do we know which one to follow? How do we know which paths are real and which lead to dead ends? What if we pick one and it takes us in the wrong direction?
And yet, how wonderful that there is not one set path for everyone to follow. How wonderful that there are different ways to approach God. And how wonderful that we can ask for help, for guidance, for instruction; and that God’s help and guidance and instruction can look different to all of us. It brings me back to William Byrd’s musical setting, and the way the different voices are woven together, crossing paths so that they are sometimes in the same place and sometimes on their own, but always part of the same piece of music, always seeking for God.
Loving God, like the Psalmist, I need your guidance. I need to be reminded that there is more than one way to you. I can too easily judge others who appear to me to be following the wrong way, or no way at all; and I can too easily be distracted and confused by all the paths that open at my feet. Lead me, lead all of us, so that we can each follow you in the infinite ways you have made for us, with our whole being. Amen.