As I read the words “Blessed are you O Lord, teach me Your statutes,” the tune of Psalm 25, in Byzantine chant, enters my mind. Growing up in the Melkite church, I often heard and sang this prayer during liturgical services throughout the year. Although it has always been one of my favorites, it has only really been in the past 10 years or so that I have truly come to understand what these words mean to me, and for me, as I live my life.
When looking through the lens of relationship, I am able to see that in asking God to teach me God’s statutes (or ways), I need to open myself up to letting God teach me. That is, I need to cooperate with the process. Another way of looking at it is that I am asking God to help me to learn God’s ways.
Now, how can I learn anything without some sort of action or response on my part? I cannot. I can’t just be passive, expecting to learn and blaming God or others when I don’t learn. Along the way, God has helped me to see that if I want to learn God’s ways, there are things that I need to do on a regular basis. I need to spend time with God and with God’s Word…I need to pray and to listen…I need to ask questions and allow time for a response…sometimes I need to ask the question again, or in a different way.
Most importantly, in order to learn, I need to be honest. I need to be honest about my desire, my strengths and where my weak spots, or areas of where I need to grow, are. If I want to learn God’s ways and to embody and live those ways, I need to be honest with God and with others. And, in order to do that, I need to be honest with myself. Sometimes that can difficult or even painful.
Recently, while speaking with a friend, I expressed some frustration over a situation. As we spoke my friend suggested that perhaps I was being impatient. I responded, “I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t see it that way…” and we continued our conversation. Afterward, I found myself thinking, “Impatient??? I’m not being impatient.” This thought kept entering my mind as I continued along and I felt like I couldn’t just dismiss what my friend had suggested without taking some time to give it a good, honest look.
Initially, I thought about lots of situations where I was very patient and even comments from others to support this. However, it occurred to me that just because I was patient in those situations, it didn’t mean that I was being patient in this situation. I had to stick with the current situation and at least consider the possibility that I was being impatient.
Shortly after that, I thought, “Alright! I don’t see it. How is it that I’m being impatient? Help me to see it the way You do, Lord.” Well, as I sat there, there were a number of things that started to come to mind that had not come to mind earlier. Upon further reflection, I realized that I was, in fact, being impatient, and that it not only caused me to lose sight, but also led to my frustration.
As I sit with this now, again I feel grateful to God for putting this friend into my life, for helping my friend to be honest with me, and for helping me to be honest with myself and to see the truth.
“Blessed are You O Lord, teach me Your statutes” – Without honesty I cannot see the truth.
For those who might be interested, you can hear “Blessed are You O Lord” in Byzantine chant at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SNIuHcg_zA. While this link is for the chant as sung at a memorial service, this hymn is also part of other liturgical services such as Compline and daily Orthros.