What is the highlight of your week? Mine is Thursday afternoon, 4pm: songwriting session with my church. It’s a more than welcome mid-week cocoon of creativity, comprised of miscellaneous, beautiful people gathering to pray, read, laugh, drink coffee, challenge one another…and write. The moment I walk into that large, colorful kids’ room and see my faithful friends sitting at a round table; with notebooks and nerves and all, I twirl with glee, shouting: “I AM an artist after all!”
This week, our leader, Tia, assigned us a task. We were to read Psalm 34 and Psalm 36 back-to-back, then spend the next 15 minutes writing a sort of “stream of consciousness” response to the two passages of scripture. She encouraged us to force our fingers to stay on track, writing just one train of thought – and to see where that train takes us.
I know Psalm 34. I had committed the first ten verses to memory about a year ago, during one of my many spells of, “I need to memorize more scripture!” Today, those verses still swim around my mind. And as I revisited the text, they began to resurface. Misconstrued phrases slowly bobbed up and down on the sea of my psyche. I saw them from a distance; I pointed and smiled, feeling good about myself. “Remember that time you memorized this? You do know scripture!” I reassured myself. “Gina, you’re a great Christian.”
Gina, the great Christian, then began reading Psalm 36. Psalm 36 starts like this:
Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes, this iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
Fighting against the grain of pride, I kept reading.
I read of God’s steadfast love and His never-ending supply of delight that flows from His fountain of life. I read of His faithfulness. The abundance of His house. The refuge found beneath the shadow of His wings – all things gifted to the righteous.
But as I navigated the narrow literary path documenting the discrepancies between the righteous and the wicked, one question conducted my train of thought:
Which one am I? Am I righteous, or am I wicked?
Because I’ll tell you right know: I can think of a million things that would qualify me as “wicked”, according to the text. I’ve recently questioned God’s faithfulness, though He’s come through for me more than I can count. Does that mean I’m wicked? Hey, just moments before reading, I flattered myself in my own eyes…that means I’m wicked, right?
Well, here’s the thing: I’m wicked without Jesus. Even my good deeds are like filthy rags. Without Jesus.
The Psalm ends with a plea:
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.
I believe the “foot of arrogance” is the pride that comes when we forget that our righteousness is not our own; when we let the world of wickedness convince us that God owes us good things. God doesn’t owe us anything. We do not deserve access to the river of His delights. God died. Now, we owe Him our lives.
My songwriting group? I don’t deserve that. My friendships? Nope. Singing abilities? No way.
It all comes from Him. And forgetting our undeserved favor compromises our souls.
Now, I no longer read Psalm 34 with pride. I read the opening verses with fresh, humbling perspective:
“I will bless the LORD at all times, HIS praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD, let the humble hear and be glad.”
HIS praise shall continually be in my mouth…not my own!
Lord, forgive me for praising myself more than I praise You. Protect me from the snares of pride. With every song I write, with every victory, with every delight – I pray You immediately get your glory. Let Your praise continually be on my lips. I love You, Lord. Thank you for dying for me, Jesus. I would not have access to the Father or any of His gifts were it not for your obedience, Jesus. Thank you. I love You.