Psalm 139 - Today's New International Version
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart..."
Have you ever wondered why this plaintive prayer is part of this particular psalm?
In earlier verses, some beautiful singing has been going on - songs of the everywhere-God, the God-from-whom-we-cannot-escape.
If the psalmist is right - and hundreds of years of Christian theology affirm that he/she is exactly right - then there is nowhere that this singer can go where God is not already present.
There is no way to be outside of the presence of God.
Think about that for a moment.
The only other person in the universe from whom you can never be separated is...
And we all know how often we wish we could run the heck somewhere - anywhere! - from ourselves, don't we?
Yet the spiritual teachers I've been studying in the last few years all say something like this:
the more we know ourselves, the more we know God;
the closer we get to the center of who we are,
the closer we come to God.
Which is not to say that we are God.
It is to say that doing the soul-searching work of introspection, really understanding who we are,
how we're wired,
where the shadows are and
where the light shines brightly -
this is the work that brings us closest to the heart of God.
Because God is the one who drew up the original blueprint, you see.
God is the one who sees us as we are - and as we could be.
And God is the one who can call forth from us
our very best, very brightest, very truest self.
When I join the psalmist in asking God to search and know me,
I am doing the best work there is.
Because out of that work, the river of life flows from me to others.
Out of that work,
out of that searching,
the broken places in me can widen just enough
to let the light of Christ shine out into the everyday world God has asked me to inhabit.
So, then, this small prayer - the one that feels almost like an add-on - well, it's a really big one to pray, isn't it?
"Search me, O God. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."
So, with a deep intake of breath, I do pray that prayer, Lord. Help me to do the work - the hard, sometimes slogging and oh-so-slow work - of knowing myself and knowing You. May I rejoice in the assurance of your everywhere-Self; may I know the joy of your salvation and radiate that joy wherever I go.
Click here for day one of this series and an explanation of what it's all about.