It seems as if I sit at my desk and do my daily work—live my whole life—in pseudo-faith, enjoying the warmth and good news of the scriptures, but treating them as if they were little more than fairy tales for all the real changes they produce in me. I can categorize and tabulate and cross reference the stories pretty well. I read them, smile, and get to work the best I can. Comforting enough when all is well. But You, Father, never leave “well enough” alone.
Thankfully, Your love for me and your determination to do me good (which I am coming to trust more and more), leads me into storms and deserts as well as streams and green pastures. You try my faith and You give me rest. It’s simply what it takes to help me shake off this pseudo-discipleship, to go on, to open more, to feel safe exposed in Your light.
So, time and again you set me up (through trial or through calm) to peel another layer, and eventually we sit together, and I listen for your voice with that heightened “everything’s on the table” awareness. You ask me to consider the question, “If I were your Lord…?” *clearing throat* Let’s see, if you were my Lord, then my days would be characterized by:
- Seeking to hear from you when I arise (contemplation, quietness, bible reading, prayer). Too often I am checking off a discipleship step or being too busy to bother.
- Doing things I think you want me to do, while being open to your redirection as I go along (as Al recently shared about Abraham recognizing the ram in the thicket as Your provision and not the Devil’s temptation to disobey).
- Not doing things I want to do that I know you don’t like. Not with gritted teeth and rigid discipline, but as one who cares about You, knowing how much You care about me.
- Listening for your voice (whispered in thoughts, circumstances, things I observe in the day, in the voice of others, anywhere, really) all through the day, not just at my “appointed” time slot or when You pin me down.
- Cutting off my frequent rebellions and bowing my heart to you sooner, each time I start to wrestle with being in control of my time, funds, to do lists, and all the normal things that are no longer my right.
- Learning to respond to Your voice without asking why or requiring logical explanations and understanding. Why is a good question in the mouth of a two year old. Unseemly at 61.
- Sharing with you my weaknesses and fears and needs. I know how dumb it is, but I try to tell You I’m OK all the time, “I can handle it,” I think to myself, knowing You are listening in.
- Caring for those you care for (and who will not be among these? Well, I have quite a large list…).
- Being always interruptable rather than hurrying through the day with busyness, closing my eyes, ears and heart against disruptions to my plans and schedules.
- Not giving the need of anything to prevent me from doing your will. Not funds, not strength, not wisdom, not weakness.
- Not giving authorities and powers greater authority and power than yours. Oh, let’s be honest. At times, I give complete strangers more power over me than You, caring how they perceive me and how I look in their eyes.
- Not counting the things of this world worthy to be compared to your glory and honor. Not even politics. Not my rights. Not white chocolate, macadamia nut ice cream, even when they’re going two for the price of one. Yeah, I sell out cheap.
- Often asking You, “how am I doing and what am I missing,” instead of informing You of Your shortcomings in these areas.
- Rejoicing in your care, knowing I am safe in your arms and that you will never leave me. Incomprehensible that that doesn’t trump everything and anything. My greatest fear is to be left alone to myself forever. You’ve promised that will never happen. Still, I’m likely to stray and whine.
- Thankfulness in everything, knowing you are in control and will use everything (in my life and in the world) for good. Instead of being afraid. Or angry.
You listen, smiling that “I love you” smile, as I work through my detailed and self-critical list. Finished! Pin drop silence. My confidence drops a notch. I was expecting a pat on the head and a, “Nice list, Art!”
This list, You whisper, has nothing to do with true discipleship. It can too easily become a task list that I can check-off and confirm my dutiful faithfulness while living in rebellion. You know me well. I should be embarrassed or upset, but I feel more peaceful. No list is good. Not getting an expected mean-faced look of disappointment with a stern talking to is even better. You are smiling, still. Not mad. Will I ever get this about You?
Son, Friend, Servant, Slave
I look at You and realize you ARE my Lord. The question isn’t, “am I yours?” I am, whether I recognize that or not. The rich and varied relationship you offer overwhelms me.
I am all of these things, and there are times when each is the best way to think of myself and my relationship with You. I have cried, “Abba,” when in fear or pain, raised my arms, and You lifted me into Your lap, reassuring me. I have heard You direct me in Your plans, and known that I was Your friend. I have been obedient in something now and then, and felt the surge of Your presence and heard You saying, “Well done, My servant,” But for this moment I especially ask, “teach me about this slave thing,” because I am tired of being a slave to myself.
If there is some portion of becoming a good son/friend/servant/slave that depends on my willingness, I am willing for you to do whatever you must. I have so far found in my life the inability to be faithful and fruitful by the force of my own will. So, my Lord, I appeal to you to do for me what I cannot.
After this, I read through Phil 1. Very encouraged about the love of both God and men being an active agent in our guidance from Him, as well as Paul’s confidence in God to bring us through faithfully, saying things such as, “…he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” “my earnest expectation and my hope,” and his “having this confidence” in his own continuance in labors.
You answer the question You proposed so much more simply and comprehensively than my checklist. There is “faith that worketh by love;” there is “he that hath been forgiven much, loveth much.” And there is You, not standing over a slave with a whip, but bidding a slave to be embraced in the height and depth and breadth of Your love. I will have nothing left clutched in my heart to give others but love.
I am son, friend, servant and slave to One who loves me, and gave Himself for me. When I look at Him, it is true what the hymn said, “The light of this world grows strangely dim.” So does my obsession with myself. How I want to tell you about Him and His love for you…