prisoner’s lament

Shackles, deathly shackles—
Round these bleeding wrists and ankles

Freedom, oh sweet freedom—
Longing nightly for your kingdom

Savior, mighty Savior—
Look on this pris’ner with favor.

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take two

Train me, God, to walk straight;
then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.

~Psalm 86:11 (The Message)

This morning I’m pondering two thoughts from this prayer by David (perhaps written when he was being pursued by Saul’s men in order to destroy him).

First, the word “train.” It implies a long process that entails commitment, perseverance, falling and getting up again, pain, suffering a setback and then fighting to get back on track,  progress in small increments. Waking up an hour ago, I felt my muscles aching from my late-night workout and early-morning swim yesterday. I want a flat, ripped tummy, a don’t-mess-with-me chest, and Arnold biceps… well, probably not that monstrous. More than that, I want to feel like I have control over this glob of biological matter, unfettered by premature aches, shortness of breath, and lethargy resulting from neglect. But a fit body isn’t FedExed to me overnight after a few clicks on a website. I have to train myself — to workout even if I don’t feel like doing so most times; to self-talk in a way that puts some sense into my couch-potato head; to not give up when I slip into a no-workout week (like last week).

I want to be trained “to walk straight” in life, not as someone who doesn’t know his way, mindlessly turning at every corner. A friend of mine who runs marathons says that running has helped him gain insight into the spiritual life. I assume working out regularly — training myself physically — will also yield a similar enlightenment; or at least a better insight into my spirit’s need for obedience training, even if it’s the kind that’s infinitely more difficult than bicycle crunches and bicep curls. But considering the rewards — life! — it’s worth the spiritual sweat.

Second, “put me together, one heart and mind.” I claim this prayer as my own. I desire unity within myself. Like all Christ-followers, I am waging an internal war, as if I were “two men entrenched in a battle,” as the dcTalk song goes. When I made the decision at the start of the year to get serious about putting to death self and all its selfish pursuits, I had very little idea how much of a battle Self will put up. Daily, I become more conscious of this intense, unseen battle and how important the stakes are. And daily I come face to face with a deeper sense of how utterly weak I am and how I can so easily switch sides: from Team Life to Team Self. It’s crazy!

Many times I break the heart of God with my choices; I am swayed by the deceitfulness of the Enemy and my sinful nature. And so with David I pray for the Great Physician to perform the complicated surgery of “put(ting) me together, one heart and mind.” For Team Life to take the upper hand more and more, until Team Self is contained and eventually vanquished. For wisdom to see that I am only as strong as my weakness and faith in the finished work of Christ.

I take comfort in the truth that ultimately the war has been fought and won for me in Christ. Father, grant me faith to train faithfully and submit wholeheartedly to Your work of uniting the inner man for Your use and glory. This is my worship.