How did we start our Lenten journey? By renewing the by-now-flagging New Year’s resolution, or adopting a self-improvement regimen? Maybe we chose to add some practice that we can endure for this 40 day period. If so, we already may be dragging ourselves down the road, stumbling along, looking for markers to guide the way. Have we lost our way just as we got started?
Have you ever studied the blueprint a piece of property? You might have noticed a mark labeled ‘true point of beginning’. It is a surveying term that indicates the spot to which all other markings on that blueprint refer. To read any dimension of the survey, you return to the ‘true point of beginning’ to get your bearings.
Psalm 143 is a prayer of King David that describes a true point of beginning for his life—and it might be one for ours, too. As the prayers opens, David is in trouble. He had lost his bearings and feels overwhelmed by the pressures and demands—the ‘enemies’. He feels trapped and knows he is sinking fast.
So David stops and surveys his predicament. He is honest in his analysis of where he is and how he got there. And then David looks for the true point of beginning for his life: his relationship with God. If he can find that point and re-orient himself—body, mind, and soul—he can find the right path, the right way to go.
David knows he needs more than a compass to point the way north so he can head out again. Instead, he is looking for his place in the universe, and confesses that it is his dependence on and connection with God that will define his path. Verse 10 is the marker that can keep him on the right way: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.”
A contemporary translation uses a phrasing that can be an orienting prayer: “Teach me how to live to please You”. It is a prayer to say through out the day—in a meeting, faced with a decision, in traffic, at home, when tired or angry, considering choices, in a difficult discussion, confronting a tough problem.
This prayer can re-connect us to two truths:
1. Our true point of beginning is God.
2. Only God’s opinion of us matters.