The text begins by describing God speaking. As God speaks, the earth is called forth, with its rising and setting sun marking morning and evening. With the image of the sky afire with sunrise and ablaze with sunset’s golden hues before us, we are told of the Lord’s glory and beauty which transcends creation yet fills it like the rays of the sun.
We are told that God is revealing God’s self in this glory which fills all creation. Apparently God is speaking, still speaking, today if we have ears to hear and eyes to see not just in a book, our Scripture, but throughout our universe in every place which is filed with the glory of God.
When I was newly embarking on trying to follow God for myself, I remember a friend saying to me that he always heard people talking about hearing God for themselves and he wished he knew what they meant. He never heard God speak, and sure would like to hear God himself so he knew what to do with his life. This image of God revealing God’s self through the glory that shines like light through all God made suggests that God is constantly communicating to us if we can but learn to slow down, look and listen to our lives and all around us. This image reminds me of a title of a Parker Palmer book we had to read during my chaplain training, Let Your Life Speak. In this book, Palmer suggest that if we pay attention to our own lives we will find our own vocation, through our experiences, passions, and coming to truly see our lives as they are. In a way this is what the Psalmist is saying. No, we may not hear a voice booming from the heavens and in fact looking for such to thunder into our lives may keep us from discerning the more subtle way God is speaking to us. Yet by slowing down and paying attention to what our experiences teach us, to our heart and mind, to the voice of others around us, to the changing situation of our world, we can begin to hear a message. In that message the voice of God whispers to us, as God reveals God’s self in the glory shining throughout our life.
I find meditation just as important as prayer or Scripture reading in doing this. In prayer I speak to God, and in Scripture I connect with what God has said to others. But when I meditate I slow down and simply pay attention to my feelings, thoughts, memories of the day, fears and hope for the future, and to that quiet place in my soul I often overlook. In meditation I often begin, through the Spirit’s help, to awaken to lessons my life is trying to teach me, to patterns I otherwise overlook, and either to graces I’ve not stopped to be thankful for or challenges I didn’t realize were right in front of me. For me, meditation and also journaling are big ways I stop and listen to my life, hearing the many voices found within, one of which is the voice of God to me.
How do you let your life speak to you? What does it teach you?
As the psalmist goes on, she or he suggests to Israel that the message their lives are teaching them, if they will listen, is that they need to give up a dishonesty at the core of their lives. They go through the motions of worship but guard their heart from a true encounter with their deepest selves, thus not making room to really allow God to confront their deepest selves. So they fail to see the warts in their lives which need to be taken to the Great Physician. Also this dishonesty frees them to oppress others, rip off their neighbors, align with people who take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. God calls them not just to do no harm but also to open up to see their deepest selves, open up to God communicating truth through their lives, so that they can have the deep honesty with themselves which allows them to have true compassion toward others.
Ultimately, it is I think this desire to keep our live as they are, this fear of how our lives will change, that keeps us from opening up to encountering God in coming to know our deepest selves. Yet such encounter allows us to become fully whole. And in that wholeness, God is revealed. As St Ireneaus said, the glory of God is a human being made fully alive. Such deepening self-knowledge makes the sort of dog eat dog approach to life which insensitively knocks down your opponent and bulldozes the vulnerable near to impossible since our deepest selves know engaging in or turning a blind eye to such behaviors robs us of our own humanity.
I don’t always find such spiritual encounter easy. Often I’m distracted and have trouble relaxing and connecting. Often I don’t want to see myself warts and all, because at first it is painful. But ultimately the more I do it the more my life come alive like the sky flashing alive with light in the early morning. I think the same will be true for you as you continue in this journey.
Let’s continue it together.
Your progressive redneck preacher,