“Have mercy upon me, O God…
Blot out my transgressions…”
So did I mention that my son got a penalty a few weeks ago in hockey? It was his first one. And it was an accident. He didn’t mean to trip the kid; he’s not really that kind of guy. Although I suppose one is often a different kind of guy when one is playing one’s sport. But really, he’s not that kind of kid.
I felt bad for him when he was sitting in the penalty box. Probably more than I needed to. He understood that he’d made a mistake, and there were consequences for that. And the ref certainly doesn’t know him well enough to know how upstanding a citizen he is outside of the rink.
It got me to thinking about consequences, especially the ones that don’t seem “fair”. Like getting a ticket for talking on the phone while driving, when it was “just for a minute”. Or the fact that your car is totaled after an accident that was just, well, an accident. It seems like there ought to be some sort of, I don’t know, medium-range penalty for incidents where there was no malice.
I have a friend whose twentysomething year old niece, while driving, accidentally killed a pedestrian last summer. It was not at all her fault, but you think she’s not still having nightmares about the role she played in that man’s death? And that was something she had little control over. What about the sins we commit that are deliberately poor decisions of self-will? God’s forgiveness comes immediately upon remorse and confession, but sometimes that horrible feeling doesn’t go away.
Psalm 51 is that feeling. These are David’s words as he mourned his actions and their consequences in the whole Bathsheba incident. It’s a painful but reassuring psalm, somehow. It’s honest and hurting. David confesses and asks God to clean Him, but He also begs God not to withdraw His Spirit from him.
Fortunately, that’s not possible. That feeling that God is far away is an illusion. But there are things that we force out of our minds because we don’t want to think about them anymore. There’s no need for that. God knows what we’ve done, and He knows why. He knows our sorrow, and He knows our weaknesses. That’s the confession.
But then keep going to the most beautiful part of Psalm 51: praise ~ “my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness… open my lips and my mouth shall show forth Your praise…”
No matter what you’ve done, no matter why you did it… Confess, repent, receive His forgiveness… and come back to worship.
~ “A broken and a contrite heart,
These, O God, You will not despise” ~