Monasteries of the Heart

25 Windows into the Soul: Praying with the Psalms by Joan Chittister

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Window Fifteen

You love those who search for truth.
In wisdom, center me,
for you know my frailty.

Psalm 51

Read and memorize the psalm verse.
Pray it over and over again throughout the day
until it comes without effort, until it becomes part of you.


The dictum "Know thyself," which appeared on the statue of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi in sixth century B.C. Greece, is one of the oldest directives in Western philosophy. It's good advice. We so often project onto other people the tendencies we fail to recognize in ourselves. In our time, however, the concern is as much about self-esteem as it is about self-knowledge. Both positions are valuable. But both of them are insufficient, I think.

Self-knowledge gives us perspective and self-esteem gives us confidence, but it's self-acceptance that gives us peace of heart. It implies, of course, that I know myself and value my self. Yet, unless I can simply start by accepting myself, it is possible that neither of the other two dimensions can ever come to life in me. Clearly, even if I know who I am, even if I admit the truth about myself, if I don't accept what I see there, I can never really value it. Worse, I'll live in fear that someone else will see to the core of me and reject me, too.

But, the psalmist teaches us, that's precisely where the God who birthed us, our loving God, becomes the mainstay, not the menace of our lives. God knows exactly who we are. God knows our frailty. And God accepts it. And gathers it in. God loves us, not despite it, but because of it, because of the effort it implies and the trust it demands. There is glory in the clay of us. There is beauty in becoming. The static notion of life, the idea that we can become something and stay that way, is a false one. We face newness all our lives. We search all our days for truth. And God loves us for the seeking. What we need is a center that stabilizes us in times of change, in us as well as around us.

Response: Think a minute, What are the two deepest desires of your soul for yourself? What's keeping you from attaining them?

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