Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
– Psalm 119:17, 25 (NIV)
Through my earbuds plays the wisdom of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” about setting boundaries after a relationship ends: “One: Don’t pick up the phone… Two: Don’t let him in… Three: Don’t be his friend…”
One, two, three.
The psalmist prays in an acrostic format, with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet beginning each stanza’s lines: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Dalet.
A, B, C.
Given the complexities of the world; given the complexities of our lives; given the complexities of faith as we mature and ask hard questions and wrestle with God: it’s no wonder that sometimes we need simple tools and elementary lessons to keep us grounded.
One, two, three. A, B, C.
In Sunday School when I was a child, the foundational lessons were built into our songs: “One, two, three. Jesus loves me! One, two. Jesus loves you!”
In the days of memorized catechism, it was a series of questions and answers: “What is your only comfort in life and in death? What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” (à la the Heidelberg Catechism)
In Psalm 119, twenty-two letters shape the psalmist’s prayer, but it can also be a string of beads or the fingers of a hand or the hours of the day that help us pray. It can be the simplicity of a rhyme or the faithfulness of a sunset that teaches us of God’s love. It can be an earworm or an alphabet that keeps us honest about our relationships with God and with one another.
So long as we learn the lesson. So long as we keep returning to it, by whatever simple tools we find most useful for the living of these complex days.
A: All that I am is yours, O God.
B: Be present with those who suffer, O Christ.
C: Call us beyond our egos and out into the work of love, O Spirit.