“You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
– Psalm 51:6-7
Though September falls two-thirds into the year, it is marked with new beginnings in equal measure to those that arrive with the dawn of a new year. Schools are back in session, luggage put back in the closet, vacations ended, fall sports and activities clog calendars, the season of college applications has begun, lawns are refreshed.
Howard Thurman, whose spiritual wisdom gave theological strength to the Civil Rights movement, once looked out upon the year ahead and prayed: “There will be errors of the mind and great inaccuracies of judgment which shall render me the victim of my own stupidities … I shall mistake my light for Thy light and I shall shrink from the responsibility of the choice I make. All of these things, and more, will be true for me because I have not yet learned how to keep my hand in Thy hand. Nevertheless, grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.”
Thurman’s prayer seems most appropriate in this ninth month of the year. New Year’s resolutions long ago proved to be not so resolute, providing strong evidence that our will and strength can never replicate the will and strength of God, who alone can transform our weaknesses into strengths and our failures into faithfulness. Believing this, Thurman prays: “Though my days be marked with failures, stumbling, fallings, let my spirit be free so that Thou mayest take it and redeem my moments in all the ways my needs reveal.” He then closes his prayer as he began: “Grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.”
In a way, each day marks the beginning of a new year. As Paul reported to the church in Corinth, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” Tomorrow may be met with disappointment, but through Christ, tomorrow will always have hope. Thus, we can join our voices with Martin Luther when we sing: “If we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right One on our side, the One of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same”
Lord, grant that we may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.