EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from A Perfect Mess by Lisa Harper (WaterBrook Press) 

Chapter One 

Walk This Way

What Psalm 1 reveals about avoiding potholes in the path of life

God’s words, creating and saving words every one, hit us where we live.
—Eugene H. Peterson

I’m a sucker for fashionable shoes. Unfortunately, cool “kicks” are often synonymous with wincing in agony. Which was the case a few months ago when I became madly infatuated with a pair of black, knee-high, leather boots while shopping in Chicago. When I tried them on and pranced around in a circle to impress my friends Kim and Sharon, they both looked dubious. Kim even asked, “Are you sure they’re comfortable? Because you look like you’re walking funny.”

I replied flippantly, “Yeah, they’re comfortable. And aren’t they the most gorgeous boots you’ve ever seen?” while intentionally taking slower steps so as not to teeter in front of them anymore.

Of course, they weren’t comfortable at all. I should’ve done the smart thing and put those boots back into the box they came from. I should’ve told the solicitous Nordstrom clerk, “No thank you,” and walked out of the store empty-handed. But I’m more of an impulse shopper than an intelligent consumer, especially when it comes to shoes. So I surrendered the Visa and assured myself, They’re just a little stiff because they’re made of such high-quality Italian leather. It won’t take long for them to get broken in, and then they’ll be as comfortable as a pair of slippers.

 foolishly decided to break them in that very night at a business event because they complemented the outfit I was wearing. I was convinced the cuteness factor far outweighed the possibility of discomfort.  Besides, I reasoned, a little pinch is nothing compared to how hip these boots will make me look.

Less than an hour later I was hobbling around like a geisha. And by the time the emcee introduced me, I no longer had any sensation in my toes. I limped mincingly to the podium and tried to focus on speaking while fearing my feet were in the initial stages of gangrene. All the while, my friends sat on the front row wearing “I told you so” expressions. Afterward they teased that I should’ve explained the new-shoe shuffle to the audience. They mused that some people might have wondered if I’d been boozing it up beforehand since I couldn’t walk right all night!

Walking right is the theme of Psalm 1. This first song in the Psalter emphasizes how we must follow our heavenly Father’s path instead of being lured off course by what ungodly people proclaim to be fashionable. And this ode to obedience includes a warning as well: attempting to be hip in ways that aren’t cool with God will ultimately lead to hobbling around in pain, separated from the only One who loves you unconditionally.

When was the last time you hobbled around in pain due to your own foolish choices?

“JOY” THIEVES

I can’t help but grin over the fact that the book of Psalms begins with the word happy. And I find it especially intriguing that the happiness in Psalm 1 isn’t associated with eating dark chocolate or finding a pair of designer shoes on the clearance rack. Instead this literary smiley face refers to the profound joy and satisfaction that accompany walking closely with God:1

Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked,
who don’t go where sinners go,
who don’t do what evil people do. Psalm 1:1, NCV

One Sunday when I was in junior high school, I was sitting in church beside a cute lothario named Gary. You can imagine how I felt when this suave young man, who was five years older than I and the object of a huge crush on my part, put his arm around my shoulders. We were sitting a few pews in front of Dad, and although Gary’s attention was so titillating I couldn’t pay attention to the sermon, I could sense Dad’s disapproval wafting through the sanctuary. When the service was over, my normally soft-spoken father pulled me aside and declared, “I’d better never catch you swapping slobber with that boy.” Then he tersely told me to get in the car

We drove home in uncomfortable silence, my dad staring straight ahead and me staring out the window thinking, I hope none of my friends heard Dad. I can’t believe he actually said “slobber”! Ugh, I wish he wasn’t such a fuddy-duddy.

After we had pulled into the driveway and I had started walking toward the house, Dad finally broke the silence by saying, “Lisa, come over here for a minute.” He motioned for me to join him by the picnic table. I approached with a cautious “Yes sir,” and he said, “I want you to get up on the table.” I thought, Oh man, Dad’s losing it! But he looked so serious that I obediently climbed on top of the picnic table.

Then he held up his arms and said, “Take hold of my hands. Now when I say go, I want you to try to pull me up while I try to pull you off.”  Of course, the minute he said go and pulled, I had to jump down because I couldn’t keep my balance. Dad smiled—sort of sadly—and patted the bench beside him. When I sat down, he said, “Honey, you need to realize that it’s almost impossible to raise someone else up to your standards. If you choose to be with people who have lower morals, nine times out of ten they’ll pull you down to their level.”

PSALMS:THE INSIDE STORY

The Hebrew word for “happy” in Psalm 1:1 is ’ašr-ey, which can also be translated “blessed.”2

PSALMS: THE INSIDE STORY

It wasn’t until a year or two later, after Gary had thoroughly rebelled against his Christian upbringing and gotten a young girl pregnant, that Dad’s backyard object lesson really hit home. I realized he wasn’t being a fuddy-duddy when he warned me about sharing spit with the community Casanova; he was protecting me. Dad knew what my adolescent heart had yet to learn: bad company is as corrosive as battery acid. Lounging around with unrepentant rebels is a sure way to lose your joy.

Which is the bottom line of the beginning of Psalm 1: happiness can’t keep company with wickedness.