Friday, March 1, 2013

A Lenten Devotional for March 1, 2013

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people. . .

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God . . .

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73: 1-5, 16-17, 25-26)

There are a lot of things I have failed to learn in life, but there’s one thing I’ve caught on to: When I have pursued something (like a job opportunity, for example) that comes out of desperation, desire, greed, or competition, the level of satisfaction ends up ranging from just okay to completely disastrous. But when I’ve sensed that God’s fingerprints are on something, embracing it always turns out to be the best thing. I think I’ve learned that.

The psalmist confesses his envy toward those who do not acknowledge God yet seem to prosper. He doesn’t get it, but then begins to see things clearly when he goes “into the sanctuary of God.” I imagine him stopping, looking around, sensing God’s presence, and realizing something that he had almost forgotten on his stumbling, slippery journey: “Whom have I in heaven but you?”

I am intrigued that the psalmist’s trigger point came, not over his dinner, not as he strolled along the beach, but rather when he entered the sanctuary of God. In the midst of his worshipping community, in the place full of symbol and incense and candles and music and people, he remembered who he was. This was not a remembering in individual isolation, but one that came within community.

While I recognize that this organism we call “the church” can also be stumbling and slippery at times, it is the place where I come to remember who I am and who I am not. I can look enviously at the world around me and desire things that have little to do with my life of faith, but in entering the sanctuary of God I encounter the opportunity for my eyes to open and see once again what is real.

In those moments I just might recognize that “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

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