“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
If we found ourselves able to pray, or I hope even say out loud, verse 1 from yesterday, then here is part 2, I think. It is one thing to ask for mercy, and to ask for God to erase our wrongs. It’s hard. But we have a concept of it, in human terms. Whether it’s a great king of old, or a judge, or an employer, or a teacher, we have a human idea of being granted mercy. Clemency, leniency, pardon, that seemingly irrational no-strings forgiveness. We hope the highway patrolman will make it just a warning, or pray that a parent who glances in the rear-view mirror will have pity when we get caught being up to no good. Human mercy is wrapped up in looking the other way. The forgiving party doesn’t have to expend much energy, or go to terribly too much trouble, except to let whatever has been to go unpunished.
We know that God’s mercy is ridiculously deeper, because there is no turning a blind eye, or quick dismissal of our wrongs. God knows every bit of it, and even more knows how our sin has affected more than just ourselves but others, the Earth, and even God’s own heart. It’s no simple thing to dismiss all of that, especially if God made us to be in no way sinful, and cannot tolerate sin himself, but still wants relationship with us. God’s mercy, then, is deeper; it has to really handle sin, so that it’s done with.
But mercy is just the first half of transformation. If mercy is the removal of the dirt/scum, or the pardon/forgiveness, then what about the blank canvas of our heart that is left afterwards? Is it automatically attuned perfectly to God now, so that we need never stray again? Are we just done with harming God’s kingdom, ourselves, or others? Nay. The second half of the story is a rebuilding of our hearts, to be strong and vital. So we’re coming to God and asking for more:
Thank God it doesn’t go the way of Oliver Twist for us. Culture tries to tell us we’re fools for approaching God for something like this: “You’ve spent your life pretty well doing the opposite of what makes God happy, plenty of the time on purpose and knowingly, and you were bold enough to suddenly apologize for it all and expect a blanket forgiveness. But that’s not enough, now you expect God to do for you the work of starting over within, and growing a healthy heart/spirit?”
The answer is yes. The answer is that no effort of our own could accomplish Psalm 51:10 anyway. Yet it is clearly something God desires for all of us, so how dare we not ask for it, run after it, even to death? So, let’s flip culture around. Culture does a great job tapping into the sense of entitlement that is so rampant in us today. Why? To get us to buy things. Ads say, “You deserve it!” so that we’ll spend for whatever it is. Take Coke Zero:
I’m not gonna lie, this kid annoys me. A tingling feeling from my childhood says that if my grandpa took me to get ice cream and I said, “And?” then I would get a good smacking. It infuriates me what culture is doing here to sell Coke Zero. But. I’ll gladly take the lesson and apply it to the one thing that matters: our relationship with the Almighty.
I am not encouraging ANYONE to approach God like an entitled twit. However, there is a boldness that God seems to rejoice over, and it shows up in Scripture repeatedly. There is an “And?” attitude that the leaders of our faith have born in them, which comes not from an entitled perspective of themselves, but an extravagant perspective of God. We can run in and “And?” God in the humility that says, “I know you are greater than I can imagine.” When God says, “I am love,” we can “And?” it by concluding that nothing we do will ever stand in the way of that love. We can move from asking forgiveness, to actually asking God to renew our hearts/spirits, too, because we are asking for God to do what God does. And for help in becoming exactly what he made us to be. So, today, don’t stop short. Don’t ask “And?” of the consumer products in your life, trusting what Coke, Inc. can do, without doing the same and far more of El Shaddai, the great God Almighty. Keep reading verses 1-10 of Psalm 51, and find a place/space to say them out loud. Find it in you to say it sincerely, and know that, I’d say, God is rejoicing over you. You are entitled, in his great love, to not only have the removal of your wrongdoing but have the addition of a heart that is whole and pure.