I’ve realized how tightly I like to cling to what is “mine.” My money, my time, my plans. I stake my claim, acting as queen over my domain. But as I dig my heels in, I’ve come to discover that I’m digging them into sand; I’ve staked my claim on unstable ground with the authority of a toddler in a Burger King crown.
It’s easy to feel good about life, good about God, good about your future or your friends or a whole host of things when things are going well. But when the bill comes and wipes out your savings, when your plans change…when the problem you thought was gone comes back again…when you think the anger has subsided and then something happens and you find yourself making a list of grievances once again…well — these are the moments when you discover that all these days you thought you were building on rock, you were really building on sand.
So often, I build upon sand. My soul is so wayward. I call myself a Christian yet struggle daily to not feel like a stranger to God. Sometimes, that realization feels paralyzing. And like Jonah, I try to flee, and when I do, I end up in the storm. But the storm, I have found, is really a great grace. Eugene Peterson talks about this in his brilliant book Under the Unpredictable Plant:
As God’s action intensifies, the significance of our human lives comes into focus as the single point of who were are, not what we have to offer him, not what we can do to help him…In the storm we are reduced to what is elemental, and the ultimate elemental is God.”
A few weeks ago, I was in a biking accident. It knocked me to the ground (literally) and took me out of activity and work for a week. When I was in the ER, they had me get a scan of my brain and X-rays of my spine. Because of the trauma of the accident, I was still in a state of shock when they took me for the tests. My whole body would not stop shaking, so much so that they had to tether me down with canvas straps onto the exam table so they could get a clear picture.
As I laid there, shaking against the straps, the hymn “Come Thou Fount” was the only thing that came to my mind.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing / Tune my heart to sing Thy grace / Streams of mercy, never ceasing / Call for songs of loudest praise / Teach me some melodious sonnet / Sung by flaming tongues above / Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it / Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’ve come/ And I hope, by Thy good pleasure / Safely to arrive at home / Jesus sought me when a stranger / Wandering from the fold of God / He, to rescue me from danger / Interposed His precious blood
Oh, to grace how great a debtor / Daily I’m constrained to be / Let that goodness like a fetter / Bind my wandering heart to Thee / Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love / Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above.
This hymn has been such a guide for these last few weeks. Weeks that I’ve been angry with medical bills, angry at my limitations, angry that things don’t always go according to plan, that plans had to change. Much of the time, I have struggled against the “straps” of life.
I’ve felt like a stranger from God more times than not…and yet. Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, He, to rescue me from danger. Interposed His precious blood.
And yet I am feeling well, spared from bodily harm and mental trauma. Here I raise my Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’ve come/ And I hope, by Thy good pleasure / Safely to arrive at home. I have literally arrived safely at home each day since.
I have been discouraged at my fatigue, at getting out of shape in the weeks I had to take off from running and biking, yet this weekend I ran for 30 minutes with no pain past a rushing river whose waters created a sense of refreshment in more ways than one. Streams of mercy, never ceasing / Call for songs of loudest praise.
How tightly I like to cling to what is “mine.” How brazenly I stake my claim. How stubbornly I flee. How foolishly I try to hide. How I resist against the straps I believe are holding me down only to realize it’s self-inflicted bondage. Yet my soul is not sealed against God’s favor and grace for any of these things.
As I dig my heels in, He digs his in, too. It is a grace to have the elements of my false kingdom stripped away. And though what remains may look like fallow ground, it is ground He is willing to work, land He is willing to till.