“God gave us free agency, and then gave us the commandments to keep us free.”
― Cecil B. DeMille
Just hearing the word “commandment” can make me feel somewhat oppressed, burdened, guilty, poorly behaved and much like a naughty little child. As in there is this heavy, as in literally heavy two tablets, full of laws hovering over my head which I’m suppose to be living my life by. Wanting but not always feeling as if I’m following them to the letter of the Law. Oh I don’t mean those biggie rules. . .the whole murder and stealing business. . .I try to stay away from those, but its to some of the lesser ones I think most of us falter over—as in who isn’t a bit envious of a neighbor’s windfalls and who among us hasn’t fallen at the foot of a golden calf such as our fixation with our gadgets, cars, clothes, food, yada, yada, yada. . .
As I continue reading Meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer with translation by David McI. Gracie, I have reached the final section of the small devotional. The book closes out with Bonhoeffer’s commentary of Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 or as it is known in Hebrew “Ashrei temimei derech” (happy are those whose way is perfect) is the longest Psalm, as well as chapter, in the Bible. The psalm is divided into 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Psalm 119 was supposedly Bonhoeffer’s favorite psalm and he began his reflection, intending it as a devotional for the young seminarians he was instructing, but this was all just shortly before his involvement in the German resistance and Bonhoeffer never finished his commentary. Bonhoeffer has chosen to reflect on a section at a time making this particular commentary the longest in this little devotional.
With life proving to be a great challenge this week as each daily crisis builds upon the next crisis, my own sense of well-being, nerves, fortitude, heart and spirit have come under siege.
With aching spirit, dejected soul, tear streaked face I have crawled into bed each night fretful and filled with dread, despair and grave concern.
It is indeed during such hard times of life–those times that are most painful, challenging, and traumatic. . .those times when we are filled to the top and overflowing with weariness, fatigue, sorrow and sadness, that just as a lost child may cry out to a parent, I, you, me cry out.
“Hear me Oh Lord. . .”
It is at such ebbing times that we find our thoughts, soul, mind and heart in unison crying out to the One and only One who we know and think and hope can offer us help.
The Great I AM
G-D (as those most devout of the Hebrew faith do not find it possible to even write His name as it is the most holy of names)
His presence often comes in the form of an unexplained peace, a needed inner strength, the aid of a stranger or friend who comes calling out of the blue, a profound wisdom, or the opening of a window when every door is slammed and locked shut.
His Being comes to us in song, words of wisdom, a warm embrace, a gentle breeze, or a fierce wind.
And even frustratingly, He may simply come to us as Silence. . .
But rest assured, whenever we call, come He does.
As I was reading over the devotional’s commentary regarding God’s commandments two nights ago, I was suddenly struck by God’s power as mirrored by Bonhoeffer’s own reflections on the subject. . .
4 You laid down your commandments, that we should fully keep them.
That in this entire psalm God is addressed, and not human beings, is shown by the “you” with which the one who is praying now turns to God. Nor do the commandments stand in the center of this psalm, it is rather the One who commands. Not an “it”, an idea, but a “you” meets us in the commandments. A further sign of this is found in the Hebrew word for “commandments” in this verse. It is a word that cannot be translated by a single word of ours. It derives from the verb for seeking, visiting, paying attention to. Hence, the commandments are what God looks at, pays attention to, and the means by which he seeks and visits the human being. The commandments then reflect God’s way toward the human being. They have a definite purpose and goal for me. They are not given for their own sake, but for our sake, that we “should fully keep them.” We ought to keep them in the sense of holding fast to them; indeed, we should do so fully, with all our might, so that we do not lose them or let them be torn away from us. God’s commandment is not only here for the moment, but for the duration. It is intended to penetrate deep within us and to be held fast in all situations of life.
Did it ever occur to any of us that God’s decreed commandments were not merely sets of laws, the proverbial dos and don’ts for human beings, but rather that these commandments were actually extensions of God’s “visiting” and “seeking us,” His actually paying attention to us??!!
That God, the most Holy and Omnipotent God would, though His words, wish to visit us, seek us, pay us attention. . .
So as I closed the book for the night, turning off the light and laying back onto my pillow while staring blankly out into the dark, contemplating my own perception of the idea of a commandment, I felt a tremendous sense of Power that was far greater than the trials of my latest tribulations. The knowledge that there is One who is greater than any suffering or pain who simply wishes to seek me out with His Laws which sweetly translates into Love, left me rather amazed. I also found a Peace along with a new and deeper appreciation for what most of my life had seemed to be a mere list of rules and heavenly dos and don’ts.
And as I closed my eyes, I whispered into the darkness. . .may Your will be my own. . . .