Tuesday, January 4, 2011

“Oh Yahweh, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell in Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” ~Psalm 15:1-2

“Are you purging again?” Lydia groaned, standing in our bedroom doorway. “You’re always purging. Don’t touch my stuff.”

First, my defense: that’s an exaggeration. I’m not always purging. Quite. I have been trashing and getting rid of rather a lot lately. Well, I think it’s a disease I caught several years ago that has just been growing in intensity. I just don’t like stuff. It makes me feel tied down. Heavy. Like being fifty pounds overweight. But don’t worry. I’m not obsessive. I still have a bed. And a few keep-sakes. And a box of old letters from friends. Yes, the keep sakes and old letters are fewer than they used to be, but still.

Second, my confession: I was purging. I was cleaning out my file cabinet and trashing old documentation that I simply don’t need. I hadn’t meant to start purging. I was actually looking for the files of writing and speech classes that I’d taught and noticed that, well, there were a lot of other files full of papers that I really didn’t need.

Oh yeah! And third: I wasn’t purging Lydia’s stuff. Although I probably could do a splendid job of it, if she’d ever let me.

Among one poor, neglected file of awards and accomplishments, I discovered a couple of pages from 1994. My baptism request, submitted to the elders of Topeka Bible Church, and a letter from a dear, old lady in the congregation, encouraging me afterwards. Both made me chuckle. The baptism request was filled out in Papa’s handwriting, but there was no doubt as to the originality of the word choice. My favorite verse? Psalm 15 which we were memorizing as a family at the time and which was a very important Psalm to me, since I wanted to dwell in the hill of the Lord. And my testimony? It went like this: “When I was 4 I heard my Mom and Nathaniel talking about his baptism. Then I decided to ask Jesus into my heart—to take control. I’ve been happier ever since. Now I don’t wish that I had everything that I don’t have.” Signed with my full name.

A covetous little urchin, apparently.

But even those simple little words brought conviction to me. I decided to let Jesus take control. And I’ve been battling to do the same every day since. And the words of Psalm 15 came back to mind, still firmly embedded in my memory, and still shaping the measure to which I hold myself. And fall short. The one who may dwell with Yahweh is the one who walks with integrity, works righteousness and speaks truth in his heart…he swears to his own hurt and does not change. I remember how aware I was of the necessity to be righteous before God and my inability to achieve it. That’s why I needed Jesus to take control.

Sometimes I forget the simplicity of the truth that I so clearly grasped when my mind and life were so much simpler.

“Now I don’t wish that I had everything that I don’t have.”

Right now I wish I had contentment. And trust. And integrity.

Because I don’t have them.

And I should.

Lord, who may stand before Thy throne,
Or dare to call Thy temple home?
For all of us have missed the mark
And stand before Thee, naked, stark.
Integrity, we don’t possess,
Our hearts are home to wickedness.
Our tongues speak evil, greed and pride.
Our fig-leaf works can never hide
Our desecration of Thy name,
And so we hang our heads in shame.
Yet this Thou dost, for broken man,
Thou broke Thyself to make us stand,
Thy holy name and grace to bless,
Enrobed in spotless righteousness.

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