The psalmist writes with a radical dependence on God.
Create in me a clean heart,
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
sustain in me a willing spirit…
The psalmist assumes that God will do these things, that God creates a clean heart. In the psalm, a clean heart is not something we do, but rather a gift which the divine gives to us, a joy which is restored.
When I read the above excerpt, I immediately think of honesty and wholeness, for how can we have a clean heart without honesty? I cannot enter the presence of God, cannot have true intimacy with God, (or anyone) without honesty. Sin, for me, is anything I do that alienates me from God, others or myself. All of the 10 commandments are in this definition, for the breaking of any of them causes breaking of relationship and alienation.
I’ve never understood the point of lying to God. Lying to other people may not be right, but I can certainly see why it is done. But lying to God? Where can we go that that God is not? If we are called to wholeness, to connection, to truth, surely we are called to be uniquely and wholly ourselves. Pretending to be other than we are leads only to lack of intimacy, connection and relationship. It’s like putting on dressy, uncomfortable clothes, going to a party for someone we don’t really know, and making only politically correct small talk the entire evening – it does not make for deep relationship with either party-goers or God.
It can be so hard to keep a clean and honest heart when fear comes slinking in, but there is, alas, no intimacy without vulnerability. The psalm in its entirety is a plea for forgiveness after committing a sin. The specific sin is not mentioned in the psalm itself, although the introduction states that it was written by David after the prophet Nathan confronted him over his behavior with Bathsheba.
Questions for reflection:
In what relationships and areas of my life have I been dishonest and thereby harmed relationship?
Have I broken relationship in other ways?
To what does God call me in these situations?
Where is joy to be found?
Jennifer Frick is the youth leader and the Welcoming Ministries Coordinator at West Richmond Friends in Richmond, Ind. She earned a master’s of divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.