A Clean Heart

A late-Epiphany season, pre-Lenten personal reflection

Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit within me – Psalm 51.10

Give me a clean heart so I may serve thee. Lord, fix my heart so that I may be used by thee.[1]


I have relatively clean hands. My outward behavior, for the most part, mirrors established societal mores of respectability. My heart, my inward disposition, not so much. For I have manifold thoughts and feelings that I dare not express or enact. (True for all of us, I think.)

The worship space of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, where I served as rector for nearly 17 years, is designed in-the-round. The altar, in the center, is faced by rows of seating in each quadrant. Once, I asked, “If we knew that on a given Sunday our worst sins would be projected on the walls for everyone to see, would we come?” The response – and St. Mark’s was and remains a voluble community – was silence.

The season of Epiphany proclaims that Jesus is the Light of the world. And Jesus, as Light, searchingly, searingly illumines my inner corners, the dark shadows of my being. Not, I believe, to guilt me for what I have done that I should not have done and for what I have not done that I should have done. Even less, to shame me for being who I am. But rather to enlighten me as to how to live in this essential liberty…

To move beyond external rectitude, right-behavior, to internal righteousness, right-being. That my thoughts and feelings and intentions become purified from all that I would hide from others, indeed, from my very self. All the while trusting, in faith, that I cannot out-sin God. For God’s Love, therefore, forgiveness is unconditional and everlasting.

© 2023 PRA

[1] From the song, “Give Me a Clean Heart” (1970); Margaret Pleasant Douroux (1941- )

4 thoughts on “A Clean Heart

  1. Soooooo “we cannot out-sin God”! You know I’m going to borrow this!! I loved this reflection because we should all be reminded about having a Clean Heart!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am rereading again Buddha’s Brain (a great companion book to any serious commitment to contemplative practice, BTW) and just happen to be on Chapter 13 titled ‘Relaxing the Self.’ It really is about quelling the mind/ego to connect to the ‘right heart.’ I find it difficult to attain, let alone sustain. But I have come to understand the necessity of it to find true peace. Because the self does not want those un-right moments on display for all to see. Thanks Paul for the reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My beloved brother, one thing I (think that I) have learned. Sobriety has encouraged me neither to submit nor to accept invitations to pity parties. Love to you, always and in all ways.


  3. Loretta, the conception of my/our not being able to “out-sin God” came to me in the course of a conversation with a tormented soul whose life is encapsulated about with deepest regrets from the past. I, too, know that struggle, which, at times, still overwhelms me. Nevertheless, my faith testifies that God’s Love is supreme, thus Divine forgiveness and renewed strength to strive afresh.



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