To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is betterNew Revised Standard Version
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.
I believe that God has a profound and infinite love for every individual, and I doubt that anyone reading this meditation would disagree with me. We would also all agree that God’s perfect love is immeasurably greater than what we are able to receive from God and share with others. Together, these two truths reveal a significant difference in how we see the world and how God sees the world.
In our finite nature, we have to summarize the world into abstractions in order to comprehend it, but God doesn’t think that way. We see genders and skin tones, we hear accents, we classify ourselves by careers and hobbies, and in this way, we offer and receive approximations of who we are. We stay close to the precipice that transforms mental approximations into judgmental stereotypes in order to move more easily through the world, but we can too easily forget that at best, our approximations are mere shadows of the beautiful truth that God has created in each individual.
I had several opportunities to spend time with some new acquaintances this week and be fascinated by the beauty and complexity of these individuals. One is a younger woman, born in Ethiopia, who just transferred from her job as an auditor. Another is a man a few years from retirement, father of two daughters, with decades of experience in computer security. A third is a cancer survivor, widow, manager of a customer service center. I’ve used nine words or phrases to label these three people and I have done a horribly inadequate job of describing them. If I had the talent and time, I could write a book on each one of them, trying to get closer to the beauty of how they had encouraged others, the pain of their missed opportunities, and the hopes they carried for the years ahead.
What is so special about these three people? Nothing—and everything.
Nothing in that there is no reason why these three people are any different from the dozens of other people I met this week.
Everything in that each of them is an intricately beautiful creation God has formed and continues to make, even if they do not recognize what God has done and is doing in their lives. Each one of them is a living miracle, a profound expression of the presence of God walking right around me. And of course, there were hundreds of other miracles I met this week that I never got to appreciate, and hundreds of miracles I talk to every day that are so familiar to me that I have forgotten to be in awe of their wonder.
The psalmist alludes to this miracle in the passage above. Even the sparrows get to have their homes in the temple, the earthly dwelling of the Heavenly Father, and the Father cares for each one of them. When the psalmist writes “Blessed are those whose strength is in you”, the word translated as “those” expresses any person at all, of no particular bearing or status. In a military context, the same word would mean the infantry, the large mass of humanity, and specifically not the commanders, the horsemen, the archers, or anyone else of special worth. But there are no commoners to God. The psalmist expressed that God hears the individual, that God strengthens and blesses the individual, that God turns an individual’s pain into joy. Each person is loved, each person is made whole, and each person is precious!
When we see Jesus interacting with people, we see those deeply personal interactions even in the brevity of the narratives we have been given. Think of the story in John 8 of the adulterous woman the Pharisees brought to Jesus. They confronted him with this instance of adultery and the law that commanded execution. Jesus ignored the shameful label given to the woman and the indignantly righteous label taken on by her accusers, and asked which individual present was without sin. The labels fell off, and the accusations withered away, and the Pharisees walked away contemplating what had taken place. Jesus then gave this woman the opportunity to abandon her label and live without sin. Jesus saw both the wealth of holy potential and the bankruptcy of the souls and hearts in each person, both accused and accusers, and he reached out to each of them in that moment.
I believe God sees each individual as a miracle, specially and painstakingly created, carefully nurtured and guided, and uniquely gifted to be a heavenly creature living for a while on earth. With God’s help, I want to see every individual in that way, too.
Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.