Search My Heart
Do I not hate those who hate you?… Search me, O God, and know my heart…see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:21, 23-24)
Those words are jarring, arent’t they? We wonder why they were included in this most expansive of Psalms. Psalm 139 goes from the heights to the depths, to great nobility of thought to petty vindictiveness. That, however, is the nature of life. From my studies and writing on mysticism, one thing characteristic of mystics is that they don’t boast about their purity or morality. Though near to God, they also recognize their fallibility. They don’t set themselves apart from others. The sense of fallibility enables us to be patient with others, to accept others’ imperfections, and go beyond the binary world of saved and unsaved and righteous and unrighteous. Mystics and sages honor our agency and call us to follow the better angels of our nature. They affirm our creativity and decency. They also know about the temptations all of us face, and the reality that denying our fallibility creates a gulf between us and others.
“Search me and know me.” To be known and loved is one of the greatest gifts of life. To experience divine acceptance is to begin to accept yourself and grow in grace toward others. One of the most insightful statements on the grace of God’s knowing is found in Paul Tillich’s sermon, “You are Accepted.” Here’s an excerpt:
Sometimes at that moment [of despair over our imperfections and failures] a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted! If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.
We are known and loved, thanks be to God, and in that knowing, we learn to be accepting of ourselves, aim toward personal excellence, and become accepting of others. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
God, let me experience your grace today. Let me live by grace toward others. May the grace I receive inspire me to be a love-finder and grace-giver. Let me be your companion in healing the world. Amen.