I was reading through my old journals recently (something I definitely recommend!) and I didn't know whether to be humored or embarrassed by some of the things my young mind thought. I remember being almost meticulous about what I included, because I was sure someday it would be published and read all over the world. Boy, now I'm glad I have the only copies! When they say young girls are dramatic, they sure weren't lying!
Well, I could write for hours on the juicy gems I found, but I just want to reflect on a wise man I met a couple of years ago while I was doing some service work in Hollywood.
Jeff had been a pastor for years, but partly due to his own choices and partly due to circumstance, he ended up on the street. He was volunteering at the church where I was helping and that's how we became friends. Jeff, with a beaming smile and knowing eyes, could see right through me, it seemed. He could look at me as though looking at my heart. I mostly loved Jeff for this reason. I say mostly because, if you know a person like Jeff, you know that this kind of piercing insight is sometimes uncomfortable. He had level-eyed honesty. You may know this type as well - Jeff was the kind of person that never averted your gaze and often held his eyes so steady you wondered just what else he could find so interesting in your face. Jeff was a man of the Word and knew Scripture as though it was what kept him alive. But, Jeff didn't disguise his brokenness. He didn't cover up the things about his life that had brought him to that point, at the mission.
Jeff was the picture of a broken, contrite heart - the kind the Lord does not deny. How could one not be drawn to such an individual? I find myself continually, whether or not consciously, seeking out these kinds of treasured souls because I think they are the best teachers of life.
Over Christmas I had several wonderful talks with beautiful people in my life. I always treasure the times I can spend with my grandparents and this Christmas was no different. During one such conversation, my grandpa and I were talking about how the Lord uses both right and wrong choices to reveal His glory. For, we would never truly come to the throne of grace with broken and contrite hearts had we not first understood our foolish ways.
There are many, many times in my life I've approached the throne with confidence - my confidence - and presented myself to the Lord. I committed in word and deed. I manufactured affections and recited Scripture. I did all these things, yet Paul says to the church in Corinth, "I resolve to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified." He resolved to know nothing with his own faculties, wisdom, or understanding. Even after all that raw life he experienced, he resolved to only know what was in Christ. Paul, ever the academic achiever and evangelist, wrote that only in Christ did he know anything. Redundant? Yes. Does my own life reflect it? Sadly, no.
This deserves more thought and carries more weight than I can express, but it in every way refers back to my conversation with my grandpa. Paul very clearly came to the throne, arms outstretched, asking in desperation for the Lord to fill him completely - to make something, anything of his life that would reflect the glory of God.
There has never (and will never be) a time where I have reason to approach the throne with any confidence of my own. If Paul was the worst of sinners, I am so grateful my sins are hidden in the depths of the sea!
The only way to come before God is in complete submission: offering nothing, expecting nothing, and bringing nothing but this fragile flesh. God hears and has compassion in such a way that we are filled. No, not just filled. We absolutely overflow with the goodness and mercy and joy and peace and compassion that are poured out by the Holy Spirit.
"Oh, to know the power of Your risen life
and to know You in Your suffering
To become like You in Your death my Lord
and so with You to live and never die"
The abundantly blessed life is one lived as a broken and contrite heart, received by the Lord and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yes! My soul wells up in hallelujahs to agree with Paul and all the saints: God searches for and accepts those hearts with absolutely no confidence but in Christ and Him crucified. Sigh.
What pleasure comes from seeking the pleasure of the Lord! Our joy will only be complete when we run relentlessly (yes, sometimes recklessly) after God. I wish I could talk specifics. I wish I could elaborate and enumerate, define and depict. But, then where would that leave the holy mystery?
Specifically, right now I think I should feel as though I've climbed Mt. Confusion, conquered its rocky precipice, and collapsed at the top for lack of direction. Though I've hiked its tricky terrain before, I instead feel like I'm headed up another mountain.
The peace is peculiar because the air is thin and I've realized I left my gear at the previous campsite, miles below. I journey on, stopping to breathe and pausing to pick up natural treasures. The way should seem lonesome, but the whole of nature surrounding me reaches up with a resounding AMEN. With each step I feel more a part of the glorious song of heaven, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory."
If you've made it this far, I might have sent you on your own Mt. Confusion adventure and for this I'm dreadfully sorry! Sometimes the pictures in my mind look so beautiful I can't help but write them down.
It's Sunday night in Holland and this is the first Sunday in weeks that I've used technology. I started today out of necessity - an application needed submitting - but I hope to return to technology free days. I'm just about to leave for the Gathering, our Sunday night service and I know the Lord will bless this time.
For now, blessings from Hope College,
where nearly all the women are engaged, the men are in denial, and the children are just turning the corner to cabin-fever...
(reference to the classic Garrison Keillor)