When we dream of a reconciled world, we may mistakenly think of “returning to the Garden,” as if the history of the world will be erased and we will be placed new and naked before a snake and a tree. But this is not the blueprint of reconciliation. Reconciliation does not propose a clean slate but a justified one.

When we are looking to reconcile, we must ask not only what has happened and how things have been broken, but what the new relationship, new world, and new system look like. In today’s scripture the psalmist longs for a time when mercy and truth meet. This is the vision of a place that has suffered greatly and has been renewed.

When we look for renewal, we must be as bold as the psalmist; we must dream of new systems and new relationships that have learned from the previous damage.

This newness amid a frank examination of history is echoed in the book of Revelation as John sees the New Earth and the New Jerusalem. Here at the end of all things exists a tree whose leaves “are for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). Even in New Jerusalem healing is still a work in progress. Reconciliation always is; it is a daily choice that sees the past not as an enemy but as a treasured teacher.

The language of this psalm reminds us that reconciliation at its core is growth and transformation to be embraced at the heart level. This is why systems like our own criminal punishment system thwart proximity. Our past cannot be anything but an enemy if our choices have left us no hope of learning, growing, and reforming.

O God, you know the truths I cannot speak even to myself. But I believe in your love and mercy, and I believe that you have made a way for me even through the wilderness of my own heart. You have created a sanctuary and spring within me, so that I can be whole. Amen.

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