my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
We spent time in this psalm last night in Community Group. Actually, we've been looking at it for the past two weeks, and I'm beginning to think I could spend a lot longer with it before it could ever lose any richness for me.
It's been good for me to consider idols this Lent. Security is a huge one with two faces. There's the one we're acquainted with, the one that looks to take the obviously safe paths and look for worth in what we can hold onto, whether that's things or other people. The other face is trickier, a mask of wisdom and strength. It knows that people fail and don't come through, spurns success by any measure but its own, eschews the need of anything or anyone it doesn't have. It's cynicism, and it's just another way of playing it safe, of avoiding risk, of declaring hope dead on arrival.
We talked about that a lot last night, and a version of that is most often what passes for strength, perseverence, and wisdom in my life. I can loudly declare "meaningless!" with the teacher of Ecclesiastes, but that's also my dodge from hope. I'm not wrong in seeing futility in the world, but I'm dead wrong in closing myself to hope. Because really, the reason I close myself to it is because hope hurts. Who doesn't know that?
There are areas of my life that, regardless of the appearance of risk to others, are safe to me. It's not about appearance; it's about how close are the risks I'm taking to my heart. Is there anything really on the line? Does God really need to come through? Am I letting Him lead me to places where He can be my rock, my deliverer, my strength, my savior because I'm going to need Him to be that?
Deep down, my heart is fourteen. Everything I could face then I can face now, and everything that terrified me then I'm still running from.
"Because your steadfast love is better than life." Better than life. That's almost offensive. Life is the ultimate prize here on earth. It's something to be treasured, enjoyed, protected. I agree with all of this. Yet, as Thomas Horton observed, even life as we know it is a mixed bag at best in this broken, incomplete world. God's love isn't. It's just beauty, just truth, just good. "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." Grasping both sides of that truth, or even trusting it before I grasp it, is the root of praise. That's why most of us don't know how to praise at all.
If there's a strength apart from You, Lord, give me no part of it. If I have confidence rooted anywhere but Your grace, afflict me until my proud heart yields and breaks. If I try to enjoy success or joy or love of any kind yet am distant from You, reveal those things for the bitter ash and dust they are. Keep me thirsty for You alone.