Psalm 51: Finding God in silence


God’s unconditional love is always there for us

By Paul Bartel

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

We recently bought a house that our church community plans to use for a new ministry venture. Currently it sits empty as we work on the interior. Tonight I found myself sitting on the back deck, leaning against the house, embracing the silence. It was a welcome far cry from the decibel-busting six hours spent earlier with four kids at my son's birthday party.

The silence was lovely, at least for a moment. After a while, silence becomes disarming, particularly when there are no devices or dirty kitchens or DVRs to distract us. It was just the empty deck and me. All that was left was what was inside of me.

It is in the silence that I'm forced to reflect on those things that I otherwise manage so nicely: The darkness deep inside of me. The thoughts I'd rather no one know. The things I'm too ashamed to say. There's no more hiding because it all seems to be laid bare in the silence.

I think David felt the same way when confronted by Nathan about the Bathsheba tragedy. Although he was not alone, everything was laid bare. There was no more hiding. In the midst of his pain and shame, I'm certain David felt some relief, like we all do once our secrets are exposed. That's the only way the weight can begin to lift.

I believe God likes it this way. God wants us sitting on the back deck, no distractions, in the silence, exposed and broken. This is not because God is some kind of sadist; it is quite the opposite. God simply wants us. Stubborn as we are, it is usually only in brokenness that we turn to God. This is when we discover God's love awaiting us, ready to forgive and embrace.

It once seemed strange to me that David could be such a scoundrel, yet considered the model of a man after God's heart. Now it doesn't surprise me a bit. In his darkest moments, when he was most aware of his frailty, David turned to God and found what he was searching for.

Just like David, we don't want our secrets to be exposed. We don't want to be found out. But it is only then that we will begin to discover the God who has already accepted us unconditionally. For that is the sacrifice acceptable to him—a broken spirit and a broken heart ready to finally be real with God. Are we scoundrels open to exposure? Are we ready to be broken so that we too may discover the heart of God?

Paul Bartel is part of Watershed, a Mennonite Brethren community in Kansas City.


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