By Cara Meredith
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, speaker & writer
Last night, my five-year old son wriggled his bony body onto my lap, snuggling into my chest, my shoulder, and the side of my neck. It was one of those rare parenting moments: he wanted nothing more than to snuggle up and listen to me read stories from the children’s bible.
I’ll take it, I thought to myself. So together, we read about a shepherd boy named David, whose heart was just like God’s.
“I need a new heart, Lord,” David prayed, “because mine is full of sin. Make me clean inside.”* The translation (from The Children’s Storybook Bible) is, of course, simplified for children’s ears, but that didn’t stop the ancient psalm from reaching my heart as well.
Whether knowingly or not, every time my son heard the word “heart” used in the story, he placed his hand over his small chest – the simple act, his prayer to God.
Could it really be that easy?
In Psalm 51, David pleads for mercy and begs God to cleanse him from his sin. He knows he has done wrong, but he also believes in the power of God’s steadfast love – a love so powerful, it can only come from heaven above.
But he also knows the only place true washing can take place is in the heart, in the place where the Spirit of God nestles down and makes its home.
In Jewish psychology, the heart is not only believed to be the center of everything, but the place that guards the entirety of a person’s life. Is it no wonder that David begged for God to cleanse his deepest place? Is it too hard to believe that God dwelled in the center of his being, just as God does in ours?
I can’t help but think that David looked a bit like my son in that moment: every time he thought of the holy center, he placed his hand over his heart.
And in this simple act of prayer, a washing came over him, once again.
Prayer: Cleanse the center of everything and make me new, O God. Show me that you are with me as you wash me, fill me, and restore me to the joy of your salvation. Amen.
- How has a child shown you more about God’s steadfast love?
- In Judaism, the heart is at the center of everything. When in your life has your heart (and therefore God) led you in making a decision?
- In your ordinary, everyday life, how are you in need of God’s cleansing power?