I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything. (Psalm 138:1-2)
Baseball managers will often praise a player who “runs out a ground ball.” For those of you who may not be sports fans, this means a batter will hit a ball on the ground to one of the defensive players in the infield. 999,999 times out of 1,000,000, this is an automatic out. A good number of players will make a half-hearted run towards first base, assuming the out. However, there are those players who, when they have hit an almost-assured ground ball out, take off for first base with the same speed and hustle as a player who has hit a base hit to the outfield and wants to try to stretch a double into a triple. Yes, most of the time, they are still out. But sometimes, that one in a million chance happens, and a mistake is made: the ball is thrown past the first baseman or the first baseman drops the ball. And because the batter is hustling with all his strength to first base, a sure out turns into a potential scoring opportunity.
In Psalm 138, the Psalmist says he gives thanks to God “with my whole heart.” When I read these words, I think of that batter who hustles down the first base line, willing to believe that what is assumed is not what necessarily will be. I think this is what it means to come to God with a “whole heart”. It means that we come in the face of every assumption, every diagnosis, every hard truth, every fact, every life reality, believing that what we and the world assumes is not necessarily what will be. It means believing that, in the face of sometimes overwhelming powers and forces, God is truly exalted and established above all. Giving thanks to God with a whole heart means worshiping, serving, and praying with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength because we see and live by the possibilities of the kingdom of God as opposed to the assumptions of mankind.
In his book Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancey tells a story from the hearings of the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings. After Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s president, he formed the Commission to defuse the anger and hatred of generations of apartheid rule. If a white policeman or army officer voluntarily faced his accusers, confessed his crime and acknowledged guilt, he could not be tried or punished for that crime. While some argued such policies were too lenient, Mandela believed his country needed healing more than it needed justice.
In one hearing, an elderly woman confronted the policeman who had shot and burned the body of her 18-year old son and then, 8 years later, had arrested and burned her husband. The judge asked the woman what she wanted from the officer, a Mr. van de Broek. She asked the officer to go the place where he and his companions burned her husband’s body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. Then, she said, “Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real.”
Someone in the courtroom started singing “Amazing Grace”, but Mr. van de Broek never heard the hymn. He had fainted.
Talk about wholeheartedly running it out.
Where in your faith journey are you living by assumptions rather than the possibilities of the kingdom? What would it mean for you to thank God with a whole heart?