Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
We are often blind to our own failings. We do not see our prideful motives or greedy ways. We do not understand how our choices and behaviors are hurting others. We may not even be aware of the fears and anxieties that drive us and hold us captive. If anything is to change, we will need help to know ourselves better. We need God’s help in order to take regular inventory of our lives.
And so we pray as the psalmist prayed. We ask God to help us take inventory of our lives. And with God’s help, we make an honest assessment of our anxieties and of our offensive ways.
Usually when a conflict surfaces in a relationship our instinct is to reflect on the ways the other person needs to change. But when we catch ourselves and pray, “God show me what my part is in this conflict. How am I contributing to this problem? What do I need to do differently?” we inevitably will be shown places we need to change.
As God responds to our prayer to search us and show us, we begin to see our self-serving motives. We are given new awareness of the anxious thoughts that kept us defensive in the situation. We begin to understand the road blocks we put up to being truthful, respectful and loving toward others. When we ask for this kind of help, as the psalmist did, God’s Spirit shows us our selfish hearts, our fears and anxieties, our offensive ways.
It can be helpful to write down what we sense God is showing us. And to then ask for God’s help to change. We can ask God to free us from the self-centeredness, the fears and anxieties, the defensiveness and offensiveness that the Spirit has revealed to us.
There are many other ways to take inventory. Just to take one example, the Oxford Group movement in the early 1900’s advocated making a regular written inventory by dividing a piece of blank paper into four sections. In one section we ask God to show us where we have been less than absolutely loving. In another section we ask God to show us where we have been less than absolutely pure. In a third section we ask God to show us where we have been less than absolutely honest. And in the fourth section we ask God to show us where we have been less than absolutely unselfish. Then we wait quietly and write down whatever comes to our minds.
However we take inventory, we need to do it with God’s help. That is, we need to do it as the psalmist did, as an act of prayer. It is good to ask for God’s loving correction in our lives on a daily basis. It will be painful to see the error of our ways. But the practice of inventory takes us to a place where God’s grace can meet us. It is a place where it is possible to experience God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
I am in the dark.
I am blind to my own selfishness and greed.
I do not see my pride and defensiveness.
I am anxious but I deny even my anxiety.
Show me the error of my ways.
Show me where I need to change.
Show me where you would correct me and heal me.
Help me to take inventory.
Lead me in your way.
Use the words of the psalmist to ask God to show you your heart, your anxieties, your offensive ways and to lead you in the way of life. Wait quietly. Write down whatever you are sensing.
Try using the Oxford Group method of asking God to show you where you have been less than absolutely loving, pure, honest and unselfish. Wait quietly in prayer. Write down whatever comes to mind.