*This summer at Providence Church we are spending time in the psalms together. Each week during June and July we will be posting written responses by a member of our community from their time meditating on a particular psalm. Go here to read others in the series. This week’s reflection is from Nelson Monteith:
I didn’t see the tears coming until they blocked my vision. As I sat across the table from my new-found boss on the Starbucks patio, expressing to him that I had been frustrated by his lack of affirmation towards me during my first few weeks on the job, I suddenly found my mouth mute and my eyes watery. We had grabbed coffee to discuss a minor conflict from the previous day, but as I began verbalizing my thoughts, I realized this wasn’t so “minor” for me. The words I was speaking came from much deeper down in my soul than I first thought, and it took a face-to-face conversation with my boss for me to finally see it.
What I was really confronting on that patio was my deep longing for approval, because for the previous nine months I had put countless energy and anticipation into my first business job. All of that had culminated into a desire to be seen as an intelligent, put-together professional.
While crying in front of one’s boss on the third week is never ideal, the outcome of that conversation was shockingly alleviating. I had (somewhat accidentally) laid myself bare before him, revealing my inadequacies in the office and displaying my deep-rooted problem of needing approval from others. In that moment, I could hide no longer (from him or myself). But for every bit of humility and shame I felt, there was an even deeper sense of joy and relief that rushed into my soul from simply putting all of my insecurities on the table. In some inexplicable way, admitting that I was emotionally, professionally, and spiritually broken had never felt so good.
David wrote Psalm 32 on the heels of an unthinkable act; he had committed adultery, treason, deceit, and murder within days of each other. One can only imagine the kind of guilt and shame this must have caused “the man after God’s own heart”. Yet, remarkably, this psalm is not a sad one; on the contrary, it is one of the most joyous and redemptive passages in the entire Bible.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” David begins the psalm. “Blessed” is how he describes himself after murdering his friend! We see that the bad guy in Psalm 32 is not David’s past sins; rather, it is the hiding and pretending that so often follows disobedience. David elaborates: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away.” David is saying that experiencing the Christian life does not mean being sinless; it means being honest about how sinful we really are! With this perspective, David can say to God, “your hand was heavy upon me,” and know it’s actually God’s mercy to painfully remind David of his sin, that he might also remind him of the blessedness of being liberated from guilt and shame. It’s as if God is saying, “David, I want you to know that I’ve set you free, even if I have to lay my heavy hand upon you for a little while for you to realize it.”
As I sat across from my boss, confessing my need for his approval and wiping the tears from my eyes, a look of compassion came over his face. He proceeded to tell me how proud he was of me, that he considered me a friend, and that he valued me as a person. His words were a wonderful representation of how God loves his children. In Christ, God is proud of us, he befriends us, and he values us. Knowing this cognitively is one thing; experiencing this when we’re broken and ashamed of something deep within our soul is something completely different. And this is what God desires: that we would make ourselves fully known to Him – in all of our failures and insecurities – so that we may truly experience the wonderful blessing of being fully forgiven and loved. There is great peace in the mercies of God!