“God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile! … God! Let people thank and enjoy you.“
This is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 67:1. It captures that essential happiness with which the psalm glows.
We have a painting on our wall by the large window overlooking the river, executed by our son Dave some years back, when he was about 18. I remember that he asked me what his mother’s favorite word was. After a few minutes of thought I gave him the word “Smile.” He promptly painted the word with his characteristic verve and passion and presented it to her on her birthday.
Unfortunately, he left it to dry on the patio and it became damaged by a sudden rain storm. He was quite upset and wanted to destroy the piece but I wouldn’t let him. I insisted that all was well.
I would even maintain that the rain-streaks through the oil paint added character.
So there it hangs. It’s not perfect but it is marked with grace.
It spells love, commitment, passion and loyalty. To me, even the furious desire to cast it aside as damaged goods is part of that wounded beauty. And the word itself reminds me that to “Smile” is an act of will, sometimes accomplished under pressure and against all odds. Like the old song, “Smile though your heart is breaking.” It is not a facile or glib thing to decide to smile.It can change everything.
God marks us with grace. Our performance may not be flawless -we may have become damaged by life and by things outside our control – but our hearts may still smile with the grace given us.
There’s a lovely moment in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring when the extent of the evil that is being faced becomes apparent. Here’s the response: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
Paul said “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Gal 6). He meant the physical signs of torture, for he too had been left out in the rain, so to speak, and suffered terribly through a life where love was mingled with grief. But he also said (in Romans 8), “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No matter what, he had been marked by grace.
Today Lord I smile. Today I realise that the most wasted of days is one without laughter. Today I choose you, because you have chosen me. I thank you, I enjoy you, I smile with you, for you have marked me with grace.