Psalm 51:13-17

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (v. 17).

Last spring, I walked downtown to join hundreds on the plaza in Asheville to listen to local young adults share their stories and experiences of being Black. They recounted the realities of racism, described their dreams for equity and justice, and challenged those present to work urgently and unceasingly for meaningful change. 

Reflecting on my own privilege and the times when I had wronged someone or brushed them aside, I found myself earnestly wanting to ask, “What can I do to make it up to you?” Though my question may be the beginning of transformation, I worry that it only reflects my desire for a quick fix. If I make a grand gesture, will I no longer feel guilty or uncomfortable? If I sacrifice some time or money now, can I say that I have done my part? Meaningful change, however, requires more than a one-time sacrifice; it requires a broken and contrite heart.

The psalmist sees that God isn’t simply appeased by a material sacrifice. A humble, contrite spirit is what God wants. When we see our failings and let humble contrition shape our spirits, we start to see God’s compassion for us and for all God’s beloved children. We will know inner peace, listen intently to another’s fears and hopes, and persist in learning about and working for peace, justice, and love.

Neither God nor our fellow human beings desire the kind of loving relationship that could be formed by a momentary gesture, then forgotten once the news cycle moves to something new. When we sit within the pain of brokenness, our hearts begin to change, and our lives reflect the faithful commitment that’s needed to welcome the beloved community God intends. 


Where has God’s mercy met you in your brokenness? How has it led you toward compassion and empathy?


God of Grace, open our hearts to the needs of others. Amen.

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