Psalm 119 is long. Really long. The longest psalm. The longest chapter in the Bible. So, reading it can become a bit daunting.
But like a good meal, when you bite of small chunks and savor the content, Psalm 119 offers some incredible fodder for faith. Consider verses 36 & 37: "Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways."
In our world we see people grasping for life out of a number of areas. In war, we grasp for security by taking the lives of others. At the grocery store, people grasp for the latest health fads. At home, we grasp for stability through entertainment. On the internet, we grasp for meaning through social networks.
In each of these ways, though, it seems like we grasp for life in our ways rather than asking for life in God's way.
The psalmist here gets at the heart of life's conundrum. We all too often equate life with selfish gain rather than the kind of life that the Holy Spirit breathed into our desperate dust. In the psalmist's words, life apart from God's life is vanity, and nothing more.
This is a hard pill to swallow in the U.S. where we still buy the myths of self-made humanity. Our culture tells us to build or buy our own lives rather than to seek the life God has in mind. Rather than being active creatures of our Active Creator, society tells us to become gods of our own domain, to idolize not only money or the American dream, but indeed our very selves.
Now, of course I am not saying work is bad. But the kind of work we do matters, and how we do that work matters as well. Perhaps we ought to spend less time acquiring stuff and more time accepting the gift of God's life. Perhaps we ought to spend less time trying to become someone we're not and instead learn to love in the image of God, that force of life given to us in creation. Perhaps we ought to worry less about our own security, and instead foster a society that seeks peace for all God's creation.
But to do this, we have to give up the idea that we are the ones who know what true life looks like." Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways." We must put this prayer on our lips.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.