I've been thinking about the ideas in this post for some time now. They've been sort of stirring around in my mind as I wait for the time to write them down. They've been two separate ideas for a while, clearly delineated, but somehow they got mixed up together as I wrote, and I realized they weren't separate ideas at all, but two sides of the same coin. Recently I've been reading the Psalms, my favorite book in the Bible. They are a haven for me. They have always brought me peace. When I started reading them, I expected to be showered in light and rest always. And yes, the Psalms are full of that. But I didn't expect to encounter ugliness and self-righteousness and downright cruelty in my favorite book. I've always known that the Psalms are full of King David's grief and prayers to be saved from his enemies. But I don't think I remembered how much. I read Psalm 26 this morning, and most, if not all of the twenty-six psalms I've read so far include some reference to David's own righteousness, or a plea for God to destroy his enemies, or vindictive outrage.
One thing that has really disturbed me is the self-righteousness that runs through the psalms almost as prevalent as a theme. For example, in Psalm 26 this morning, David says,
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity...
I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of the evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around You altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all Your wondrous deeds... Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity...
Psalm 26:1, 4-8, 10-11
Reading it made me cringe. This is a man of God? Look at his pride! "I shall walk in my integrity" -- as if we had any kind of integrity of our own, as if it didn't all come from Jesus. Of course, I know I'm a hypocrite to think that David is prideful, but I have been trained since my childhood that confidence in my own goodness and integrity is to be avoided, because in my natural state, I'm messed up. I'm broken. I have no kind of good character in and of myself. Even though I still fight pride on a regular basis, I want to fully believe that I have nothing good in myself.
So this completely goes against the direction my entire being has been led in.
Part of me can explain away David's words: Well, I say, they hadn't seen Jesus yet. He didn't know about grace. The Jews lived under the law that dictated how they were to live. Of course he thought it was his own effort. But that explanation doesn't fully satisfy me.
This year at church I'm co-leading a college GC, and last night we had GC leader orientation. Jacob, one of the guys' GC coaches, got up and talked about REAP, a tool used to more effectively study the Bible. He mentioned that he had been reading the Psalms, too -- that morning he had read Psalm 18. He said that he, too, was disturbed by David's overweening self-righteousness. He asked himself why David's words bothered him, and he noticed that David was confident in his standing before the Lord. David has gone down in church history as a man after God's own heart, and so he was. And because he sought the Lord, he had exactly zero doubt in who he was before his God. He knew that because he followed God and pursued God's glory, he was in good standing. And he knew something else, something he mentions only in passing in Psalm 26, but that stuck out to me as if it was written in boldface capital letters. He knew God was gracious to him.
This morning I was struck anew by the boldness of David, but I realized the truth of what Jacob was talking about. David had utter confidence in his integrity before God -- not because of anything he had done, but because God was gracious to him as he did his best to walk in integrity.
Reading and thinking about all of this led me to a question: Am I bold before the Lord? David was because he knew his identity in God's eyes. I know mine, too, and I believe it is happier than David's: redeemed, declared totally forgiven, slate wiped clean, daughter of the Creator-Warrior-Lover-King. But how does it affect me? How does my identity impact the way that I live?
Because, you see, if I truly believe in who I am and Whose I am, it changes everything.
If I really believe that I'm a Princess (because I am), it makes everything different.
If I am a daughter of God (let those words sink into your soul for a minute), then I am equipped to go boldly before the Throne of Grace and ask my Father-King in Heaven for what I need. This is not "name it and claim it" -- I am not to ask for whatever I want and then expect it to come to me. This means going to God and being specific with my requests and then trusting Him to take care of me. If I'm His child, it means I can be specific with what I ask. I can ask Him anything at all, no matter how silly or strange or downright outlandish it seems. He hears me, and I can say these things to Him, because I'm His daughter. Because I'm safe with Him.
Because I'm the daughter of God, it means I can tell Him anything. I'm learning to do what the Psalms say: to pour out my heart before the Lord. There are times I, you know, think about things but don't actually talk about them. And because God knows my mind and everything that goes on in it, He already knows what I'm thinking and feeling. But, guys, He actually wants me to talk to Him about it. What a concept! He wants me to tell Him about it. He wants me to boldly say what's on my mind, and the best thing? I can -- because I'm safe in Jesus.
Sometimes I feel that I can't say certain things to God. My answer to myself is this: why ever not? He knows me anyway. And if He's made me bold and brave (newsflash: He has), then I am well-equipped to say these things to Him. Plus, there is no safer place. He is the Safe Place. If we cannot be bold with Him, with whom can we be bold?
And oh, my friends, boldness is part of being adventurous. Being bold before the Lord and pouring out your heart before Him -- what could be more terrifying and presumptuous-feeling, yet utterly thrilling and freeing than that? We go before Him with fear and trembling, like Esther before the throne of the king, but He opens out His arms to us, His children, and accepts us as we are, no matter what. We enter the throne room (P.S. Throne rooms remind me of great halls and great kings, and they're adventurous, too) feeling small, but when we are small in the presence of God and are still so bold as to pour out our hearts on the marble floor of the throne room, baring ourselves to His piercing, loving gaze -- oh, my friends, what is more adventurous than that?
I'm learning to be bold before my Maker. To know with all of me that my voice is heard and that I am fully loved. To remember that my status as a child of Heaven means I can be bold in every moment of my life: in my walking and talking, in my practice, in my quiet, in my loud, in my relationships, in my solitude, in joy, in grief, in laughter, in difficulty, in ease, in everything. Because if I'm really made to be bold and brave, then I am bold and brave. And nothing in the world can change that.
Don't you love Him? He's made us to conquer fear and trembling whether we feel ready or not. And that means that whether we feel ready or not, we can be bold. We have been equipped. We have been prepared and equipped to be adventurers, in something as quiet and private as prayer. And if we can be bold in the throne room of the King, then we are even more ready to have adventures.
Don't you love that?