Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Sunday Morning Meds: He knows
“But the Lord knows the way of the righteous”
I know one q and a from the catechism I was raised with (I know more than one actually, but don’t press me), and that is the very first—“What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer begins this way: “That I am not my own, but belong. . .” I’ll spare you the entire answer, but one of the reasons this particular q and a sticks to the Teflon in my memory is the answer’s texture, it’s emotional color. The word of the moment here is comfort: What is your only comfort? What makes you feel good? What settles your nerves? What offers some peace? What helps you sleep? What gets you over the blues?
And the answer is, that I am not my own but I belong to God.
Likewise, the first psalm’s final verse begins with a phrase you can pull up to your chin on a cold winter night: God knows the way of the righteous. He knows. He’s got it down. It’s no mystery. For the Lord God Almighty, right and wrong and good and ill is all part of a day’s work. He knows. It’s that simple, really.
I find that immensely comforting.
Because life isn’t.
When you add up the whole works it amounts to nothing more or less than a sidewalk, eighty years long maybe, that leads to the grave. I still have a plaque my father received after twenty-some faithful years at the bank where he worked. Not expensive. His employers got it from a place that turns out trophies for longest putt at company golf tournaments. On its own, that plaque isn’t worth a dime. My father died several years ago now. That plaque is in the backroom of my basement because while there is no use anywhere, anyhow for that plaque, I can’t toss it.
Last week, in church, a man stood up and asked for prayers for a woman in Chicago, half a continent away. She is dying of inoperable cancer, and the diagnosis was in just a week ago: she’ll be gone in six months.
I could have wept, honestly, even though I haven’t seen her for years and barely know her. It seems that as I grow older I am more affected by such stories. When I was young and the trajectory of my life seemed to on an arc capable of transcending almost anything and everything, I don’t think I was as affected by such stories. Maybe that’s good. But today, they just depress me.
Psalm 1 begins with a word that’s hard to define—blessed; and it ends with a pretty strong hint at that what blessedness means. In the junky mess our lives become—traduced by sinners and sin itself—you’re not going to want to forget this singular truth: God knows. The Bible tells me so. God knows. He’s not perplexed or weary or tied to a silly ritual or overweight with bureaucracy. He gets it.
And it’s not just an idea. Be assured, the shepherd/king says, God knows the way of the righteous. He knows. He understands. He was, once, one of us, after all.
To be blessed is to know, in life and in death, in sickness and in health, that God does—that he knows. To him, it’s all perfectly clear. That’s blessed assurance.