Bright Smiling Face

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. Psalm 31:16

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Luke 1:46-48

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Self Portrait on Ash Wednesday | March 2019

You may know the song, “Good morning to you…we’re all in our places with bright shining faces.” I’m wondering if the song was designed to require a good attitude on the part of the children who sang it at the opening of the school day. I seriously doubt it would be required singing in any school today.

As I write this I sport anything but a bright shiny face. It’s Ash Wednesday afternoon, and I wear an ashen cross on my forehead. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but I’m sure that even when I forget it, others notice. I doubt that many would call mine a bright shiny face under these circumstances. The ashes were imposed by my colleague with the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Again, not a cause for a bright shiny face.

Consider God’s response to a lowly and humble attitude. The psalmist says, “A broken and contrite spirit you will not despise” (cf. Psalm 51:17). Indeed there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). In the face of our downcast spirit God shines his face of love and mercy.

It’s not that God is a sadist. He takes no pleasure in the death or willful attitude of unrepentant sinners (Ezekiel 33:11). He is not happy when his children suffer. He does not willingly bring trouble upon people (Lamentations 3:33). He shines his face of love and mercy because we are aware and acknowledging our need for his mercy.

In fact God smiles. He delights. He loves. He beams. He saves. He blesses. This he does for sinners. Jesus himself said that he came not for saints, but to seek and to save the lost. When we are downcast and soberly aware of our own mortality, and acknowledge our sin and need for a Savior, God smiles upon us with his blessing and grace.

When we rejoice in his salvation, and are deeply thankful for the lines he has drawn for us in pleasant places he is still pleased. That is a good thing. But for today we can thank him that with sober judgment we look to him and seek his mercy and find him smiling down upon us.

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