Rachel Hill was converted to Orthodoxy from a Protestant background and was baptized into the Church in 2006. An avid baker and mother of three girls, she reads, writes, cooks, and chases her daughters near St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary, where her husband, Mikel, is currently a student. She is narrating this journey at www.rachelrebeccah.wordpress.com.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your merciful love.
This psalm appears again and again in our worship, throughout the cycle of daily services, and in private prayer. Even when I hear just one line, the whole psalm comes flooding through my mind, along with the realization that thousands upon thousands of God’s people have cried out to Him with these same words for centuries, ever since King David repented of his sin with Bathsheba. This beautiful and humble plea for mercy came from the depths of a man’s heart who desperately needed it.
And what was the result of David’s despair? Where was God in his repentance? Where is God when we fall, come face to face with our sins, and want to make another good beginning? He is there, waiting to restore to us the joy of our salvation. For a psalm that begins in such brokenness, it ends on a true note of triumph and deliverance. Only God can take us in our unworthiness and still craft a “man after His own heart.”
As a convert from a tradition that did not have the mystery of confession, it has taken me a long time to “get the hang of it.” Actually, I still feel like I should start each confession by saying, “Well, umm, I don’t really know what I’m doing…” However, one thing for which I am truly grateful is that I am not afraid of the God who meets me there. I may be ashamed of the actions and attitudes that betray a heart not seeking after the Kingdom; I may be nervous about showing this heart to another person; I may even not be truly ready to repent. But I know that whenever I come with my bloodguiltiness and my broken spirit, I am coming to the One who can not only wash me thoroughly from my iniquities, but also create in me a clean heart. What is more, I am coming to the One who wants me back.
I am a mother. I spend a lot of my time in Church taking my small girls out of Church. One Sunday in particular, Sophy, my 2 year old, was kicking and screaming to beat the band. (Or at least the choir!) After making a most graceful exit, I allowed her a few minutes of wailing and throwing herself about the social hall floor. Then, like Nathan the prophet, I informed her that this was simply not what we do. She wiped her tears, picked herself up, and with the ever amazing emotional speed of a toddler, began running to the door, lisping: “Quickly! Quickly! God is waiting for me!”
As we journey through Lent, and Psalm 50 reverberates through our prayers, I hope that we all hear this call as clearly as our children can. Our fasting and prayer is not so much about a change in our outward behavior (though this is good for us!) as it is about meeting a Father who loves us and who is waiting for us. Watching my children in their struggles and joys has been so eye opening for me. I think of Christ’s words to us: “What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9)
If I can see my little daughter’s repentance, and rejoice that she is ready to rejoin the race, surely God can see my small efforts to stop my tantrums and get off the floor. I don’t love her any less at all for these moments in the social hall, and I don’t hold yesterday’s tantrum against her today. Each tear-wiping hug is a true clean slate. May we all get up, like David and like Sophy, and let our mouths show forth His praise!
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