Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
Another lesson from the golf course. Probably the first task that I did when I began work at the golf course was to rake sand traps, the dreaded sand pits dotting golf courses. They are technically called bunkers in the rules of golf, but sand trap feels more appropriate for those of us who are not very good at golf. They feel like traps that are difficult to escape. Anyway, there are 53 of these pits of sand and every morning they are raked to smooth away the imperfections.
There are days when it looks like either very few people played golf the day before (or maybe they were all just better at avoiding the traps), or like a child was in there running around and digging for treasures. So every morning anywhere from 1-4 people are dispatched with metal leaf rakes to basically erase evidence that anyone was in there before. We work methodically, starting by going all the way around the edge, then dragging straight lines across the sand trap from one end to the other. When we are done it looks fresh and renewed for the day.
The writer of Psalm 51 knew what it was like to have their life full of blemishes. And here I’m not talking about physical blemishes, but the blemishes of sin, of failing to live in line with God’s will for our lives. God has a plan for our lives that involves living in complete and perfect love with God and our neighbors (and according to Jesus that means everyone, including our enemies). As humans who are given the gift of freedom when it comes to choosing how we live, we quite often don’t choose the way God would like for us to choose. The result is broken relationship with God and others. And that brokenness is sin.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we make choices and do things that are not in line with what God would want. We make choices and act out of selfishness, fear, brokenness and a host of other things that cloud our judgment. And we are left with the consequences which like scabs and scars on God’s beautiful creation; us.
But there is good news. Even though our lives are full of blemishes, like the sand trap with the marks of imperfect golfers, we can be renewed. We can have our blemishes wiped out, washed away, and purified by God’s love and mercy. We can be created anew with a new and faithful and joyful spirit.
In Christianity we talk about being born again and/or being saved, and part of that process is God cleansing our sin. But where we often fall short in our talk and understanding of being born again or being saved is that we talk as if we get cleansed once and we are good forever. But the truth is that we still stray away from God’s will for our lives. We still sin and leave more blemishes. No one is perfect in this life. Every day we mar the clean slate given us, we trample through the freshly raked sand of our lives.
The more we live in faith and love the less we mess that clean slate up. The better the golfer is, the more they learn about it and live out what they learn on the course, the less time they spend in the sand traps. In truth though, even the best golfers find their way into the traps. But the good news is powerful and perfect; God will always be merciful and loving and give a new start for those who desire it.
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Begin (and/or end) every day by acknowledging the tracks through your life left by straying from God’s will for your life. And allow God to drag a rake through your life to wipe away the blemishes. God’s love and compassion are new every morning, and you can be too.