When All Is Stripped Away

When we examine our own hearts, the only hope of seeing truth is to be brutally honest. We need the strength of the Holy Spirit to be so forthright in admitting to ourselves the weaknesses and sin that lives in our vulnerable vessels.  We don’t like such truth.  We prefer to lie to ourselves, repeating over and over that we’re not so bad really, and certainly many others are worse.

I was faced this very week with a challenge to look at myself. My thoughts shouted against this voluntary examination for no other reason than I was afraid of what I would find, but I looked. The reflection I saw in the mirror of God’s Word is not what I wanted to see.

It’s not an easy task for any of us to sit before Holy God and not have the legs to our chair of self assurance crumble beneath us. The crash landing is never pleasant, seldom wanted, but so very necessary with promise of inner peace and joy.

This line of facing myself truly began some years ago when I received a gift of a book from a dear pastor friend.  The book is The Only Necessary Thing by Henri Nouwen.  In a note included with the gift, the pastor instructed me to take my time with each page, reading and meditating, allowing the truth found in every sentence to penetrate the deepest places of my heart.  I admit I paid little attention to the instruction upon my first reading, although the book touched me deeply.  I have read the book several times since then and each time I find that I scrutinize with careful and slow deliberation.  God has anointed each word on every page and I am drawn to meditate.

The more I read and ponder, the greater the truth of God’s words.  His instructions for my life sound out strong and clear.  Facing them has become wonderfully and painfully unavoidable.  The meditations of late are to do with time spent with God and of expectations of Him from having spent that time.  Looking honestly at myself, excuses stripped away, naked truth reflected back to me, I fall to the floor of my heart and cry out for His loving and assured forgiveness.

I heard it once said that the busier we are in our day the longer we must spend with God. This has been my goal.  What’s wrong with that you may well ask.  The wrong thing is, I suddenly realized how very proud of myself I had become in taking this time. Subconsciously, but there nonetheless, I could hear my own reflective thoughts as I smiled in times past, knowing God would bless me for the time I spent with Him. How wonderful I had become to spend such holy moments in His presence.

He does bless us when we spend time with Him, but how dare I take the attitude that my actions are what earned those blessings.  I am but a speck of dust in the vast universe.  I may spend an hour with God but do I live the other twenty-three with my mind fully on Him as His mind is fully on me?  Sadly, I do not.  The ugly truth hits me as I stand in holy reverence before God who does not snuff me out, but tenderly lifts me up, wiping tears away, whispering words of love, urging me to carry on for He Himself is with me.  I cannot give up on me because He doesn’t give up on me and I cannot contradict Him.  Oh, what an underserving, wonderful, awesome God.

I leave you with two paragraphs from the book The Only Necessary Thing that wonderfully knocked the prideful wind from my sails and touched me with the Holy Spirit instead.  The paragraphs are written by Anthony Bloom, and Henri Nouwen respectively:

“We complain that God does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer, ‘I am busy.  I am sorry.’  Or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, of our mind, of our conscience, of our life.  So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.”

“So, who is more in need of our prayers: we or God?  God is.  Who wants to be heard most?  we or God?  God does.  And who ‘suffers’ more from our lack of prayer: we or God?  I say it in awe but without fear:  God does.  As long as we continue to reduce prayer to occasional piety we keep running away from the mystery of God’s jealous love, the love in which we are created, redeemed, and made holy.”

“…The Lord is compassionate and full of tender mercy.”  James 5:11 

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