by Nan Corbitt Allen
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119: 105 NIV)
It was another time—a time when the reading of scripture and prayer were not only permissible but encouraged in the public school. Miss Mary Dell Ard was my fourth-grade teacher, and she was an old-fashioned schoolmarm. Never married, she dedicated her life to teaching children. She called every student “precious,” even though she may be at the same time applying the rod to the child’s backside. (That was permissible and encouraged in those times as well.) Every morning our teacher would read from the Bible, and hers was so overused that she had to hold it together with a substantial rubber band.
One of the few times she embarrassed me by reprimanding me in front of the class was a morning after I had been assigned to take the lunch money to the cafeteria. I had left the room after the Pledge of Allegiance and had re-entered while she was still reading from the Bible. My desk was a mere two steps from the classroom door, and so when I re-entered, I went directly and sat down.
Big mistake. I had forgotten that it was a sacrilege to move about at all during the reading of the Word. The rule: If one enters a room as the Bible is read aloud, one must stand perfectly straight and still until the end of the reading and throughout the following prayer. This was the law, and I never broke it again. Because of this lesson, I still feel the need to be reverent and still whenever the Word is read.
Psalm 119 is a LONG song included in the psalter. No one knows who wrote it, but some believe that it was a priest from Old Testament times. The entire 176 verses are dedicated to the importance and sanctity of God’s Word. The synonyms the psalmist uses for the Word are precepts, laws, decrees, and statutes. The Word is described as eternal, firm, and enduring. This lyric emphasizes that God’s Word is for direction, for teaching, for understanding. It is mostly addressed to God, so it is functionally a prayer. The writer commits to obeying it, hiding in his heart, meditating on it, and delighting in it.
I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t always done this regarding the Word. I’ve read it and believed it most of my life, but have I always consulted it when I needed instruction or consolation? No.
Verse 28 says, “My soul is weary with sorrow: strengthen me according to your word…” In times of sorrow and frustration, the Bible is often the last place we want to go for help. Why? “[We] have strayed like a lost sheep…” (Psalm 119: 176) Most of the time, the Word will tell us things we don’t want to hear: trust Him, obey Him, and surrender to Him. When we’re suffering, often we don’t want to do any of those things.
When I resist the instruction of the Word, I remember Miss Ard and how she taught me that the Bible is sacred, worthy of my respect, and my go-to for everything I need.
Read it, cherish it, and embrace its truth.
About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.
Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.
Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Join the conversation: What does God’s Word mean to you?