They say that reading is a key to opening your imagination, but have you ever come across a phrase or sentence that immediately generated a picture or video in your mind? This happened to me a few days ago.
A friend extended a challenge to me to read five Psalms and one chapter from the book of Proverbs every day for one month and to repeat that challenge every month for an entire year. I have always enjoyed reading the Psalms and I like having a plan to stick to, so I accepted his challenge and decided to begin December 1st rather than wait for the New Year.
An additional aspect to the challenge was to “pray” the Psalms, using some of these ancient words to communicate with Father. I flipped open my Bible and started with Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord.”
O Lord, I want to delight in your laws. Keep me from wicked counsel and sinful ways.
I moved on to Psalm 2. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One… The One enthroned in heaven laughs.”
O Lord, I can hear your scoffing roar. What a laughingstock we must be in the heavens. What a joke that people would dare take a stand against you. I want to laugh too… or maybe cry.
I continued my reading journey to Psalm 3. “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, the One who lifts my head.”
Click… instant picture.
“The One who lifts my head”… I see a young child standing in front of his parent. The youngster has his hands shoved deep into his pockets, he chews on his bottom lip, the toe of his shoe digs at a pebble in the dirt, and his eyes are fixed on the ground beneath him. It is obvious that the child has done something he shouldn’t have. The nature of the offense is unclear, but he is most definitely avoiding eye contact with his father. Maybe he’s embarrassed, feeling guilty, or afraid of the look in his father’s eyes. He can’t face the disappointment, the anger, the disgust… and I can’t make out the father’s face to see for myself.
But then as gentle as the stroke of a feather, the father reaches down with both hands, cupping the child’s chin, lifting his head to look him in the eye. The child has no choice but to look upon the face of his father, but instead of anger and disappointment, he sees eyes filled with tenderness, compassion, and love. The irritation and displeasure the young one was certain of was nowhere to be seen, and the child melts into a puddle of tears and relief.
O Father, the child is me. At times I am so disappointed in myself that I am certain You must be too. I can’t bring myself to talk to you or to even look you in the eye. But You are the One who lifts my head, not with firmness and punishment like I feel I deserve, but with tenderness and mercy and an everlasting love. Thank you, Father, for showing me who You are.
During this season of Advent, a season of anticipation, may you gaze into the eyes of the One who lifts your head. Do not be afraid, He brings good news of great joy for all people.