Chairs on Tables and Dirty Glasses
Psalm 139: 19-24
One cloudy Saturday, two of my photography colleagues and I were doing what we call “backroad photography.” This involves a lot of driving down dirt roads and finding relics of the past. This particular Saturday, we had been driving through the Low Country of South Carolina when we found...
Oakdale Community Center. Like one would expect with most old buildings no longer in use, the porch required caution to walk across, the bell had fallen from the belfry, and dust laid thick inside. These details alone make photographing places like Oakdale a pleasure. It all ties together to tell a story of a place where community happened, friends and family laughed, and lives were celebrated. Inside, the evidence suggested that the last event held there was a birthday party. If you closed your eyes, you could almost hear the echo of people singing “Happy Birthday”. All these details made me fall in love with the place. I wanted to take pictures in the hopes that when people look at them, they too would catch the soft whisper of the vibrant community that once lived and loved in that place.
The last several weeks, I have been blogging through Psalm 139. We enter into this old song listening to the beautiful story and pretty much knowing what to expect—1.) God knows everything about us. 2.) God is with us everywhere. 3.) God made us a masterpiece. 4.) God will not stop thinking precious thoughts about us. Now, 5.) “I hate them with total hatred”… Ummmm?… “I hate them with total hatred”? That is different. How did we get from talking about God’s great love for each of us to hating people? I will admit, that in the past, verses 19-22 were verses that I preferred to speed past. They didn’t seem to fit the rest of the story. Yet, there they are. Right there, like a chair on the table, bold as can be. Maybe it is time for me to take a closer look and see if I can catch a little of it’s story.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it does not clean up the people who are in it. They are people who mess up. They get it right one day, totally mess it up the next, and then are used by God in amazing ways soon after that. The Bible also does not hide the raw emotions of these individuals. They were real people just like you and me. I believe that is what we are seeing here. What if, verses 1-18 were a preamble David used to build the courage to say what was on his heart. Allow me to paraphrase the Psalm, “Lord, I know that You know my every thought and action. I cannot hide from You. You know me in more detail than I can know myself. Yet, You are constantly thinking loving thoughts about me. Nothing I do can change that. So let me get real with You, because I have some things I am thinking and I need You to tell me what to do with them…”
And then David says,
v. 21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
v. 22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for Your enemies are my enemies.
In the past, I think what made this hard for me to digest is that I assumed that because King David wrote it and it was in the Bible, it must be laying out a way that I should think and feel, too. But now that I look closer, that is not what these verses do. They are David asking God questions he has been wrestling with. He is being very honest about how he feels, because he has reflected on and found God to be a safe place to bear one’s heart.
What is important is how David follows this statement up. He does not say, “God, this is how I feel. Thank You for agreeing with me.” That is an easy thing to think and say. I know, because I have thought those things. Sometimes I was right, but sometimes (more than I like to admit) I was wrong. Like David in verses 19 and 20, I have declared my anger as righteous. I have spelled out why it is righteous. I probably even have a few Bible verses to back me up. Based on those things, I assumed that God agreed with me and my actions, but David does not stop where I like to stop.
Instead he says,
v. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
v. 24 Point out anything in me that offends You,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
David ties verses 23 and 24 (search me) to verses 19-22 (I hate), because he feels secure in truth of verses 1-18 (God loves me unconditionally). If I was to turn this into my prayer, it would go something like this: God here is what I think and feel and why I think I am right, but I need You to inspect this. I need You to dig deep and find all those secret motivations and hidden thoughts that I may not have even acknowledged to myself as existing. I need You to point out the offensive ones so we can deal with them. Then I need You to tell me what I should do next based on Your path, not mine.
This is where being a photographer is different than being a Christ-follower. As a photographer, when I walk into an old building, one of the rules that I follow is that I do not destroy or remove anything from the location. I walk out of the building with only the pictures and maybe some of the dust on my clothes. The chair stays on the table. The glasses remain in the room. Being a Christ-follower is not that easy. It requires that I open my heart before God, allowing Him to find that chair that is out of place and the glass that needs washing. Being a Christ-follower means that when God finds those things, I let Him clean house of everything that He finds offensive in me, whether I find them offensive or not. Being a Christ-follower means that I follow God on His path, not try to lead Him down mine. Being a Christ-follower means that I can rest in the fact that despite His knowing my every out of place chair and dirty glass, He is constantly thinking loving thoughts about me and nothing can change that.
Thank you, God for being a Psalm 139 God!
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Hello! I am Dawnita Hall. Sometimes I need to put into words the things God is teaching me. This blog is my way of sharing those moments with you with the hopes that what God is using to grow and encourage me will also inspire you. Please, share your thoughts in the comment sections after each post. Let's make this a place where we work together to encourage each other to live inspired to be an inspiration.