Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pursuing God

I need to preface this post with a little disclaimer. When I write this sort of post, I do it with a lot of hesitation - questioning whether or not it would be best left to the pages of my journal. It is deeply personal. It is written to me and then back to the Father - a laying down of a stone to mark this place in my heart. It is so I will remember. It is part of the patchwork of my life. 

On those days when the hours stretch out long and leisurely, I gather my books and step out onto the front porch. I get my folding chair from the garage and put the comfy old pillow behind my back. It is so quiet I can hear the birds like a mixed chorus, each singing his own song and making a beautiful whole. The breeze is cool and strong in the shadows, and I have to anchor down my Bible so the pages that have come loose don't go sailing over the rail.

There is a sense of His coming, and I am all at once filled with conflicting emotions. I feel a guilt for not making room for more of these moments - for the days that begin with a long list of things that must be done, and the porch remains empty and quiet. There is a longing to draw close to Him and a deep love for a Father who doesn't keep score and is always waiting.

A truck drives past. I wave and open my Bible. The words of Hosea are heavy. Ancient words that ring with present truth. Then I turn to the book I've just begun reading, the one I have sort of avoided for a long time - knowing it would require more than the mere reading of wise words.

A.W. Tozer speaks to me from the pages of his book "The Pursuit of God." The words were written sixty-four years ago. They could have been written just yesterday. They are timeless.

It is Abraham's story, the old familiar one, that unfolds in a whole new way. The clouds race across the clear blue Texas sky, and I am on an ancient mountain face to face with a life changing decision. Do I love God enough to trust Him with all that is most precious to me? Am I willing to open my hands and let Him have those precious lives that mean more to me than my own? Am I willing to give Him my heart - completely and unconditionally - holding back nothing?

It is true that He owns it all anyway. All of life is completely under His control. All, that is, except my choices. They are mine to make. He may do what He wills, but I get to choose the way I will respond. And the great God of heaven and earth awaits the outcome with longing heart. Everything hinges on it. I will either trust Him, or I will walk away. The way of trust leads to this closeness my heart yearns for, but it costs dearly.

When my time of testing came, unlike Abraham, I struggled mightily. Anger, disappointment, despair, bargaining, begging, pleading - and heaven was silent. So I became silent. For a long time. The cost of full surrender is dear, but life apart from Him is hopeless and empty. The truth of "Who have I in heaven but you?" drove me back to Him. There is nowhere else to go.

Just as with Abraham, the gift that comes with surrender is precious beyond the telling. The Father takes His rightful place in a yielded heart and peace comes like a sweet balm. That is not to say that everything suddenly turns around and all is well. It is to say that there is peace in His presence and a knowing that whatever the circumstances all will be well.

Were my story to end there, it would be wonderful. It does not, however. For in those quiet moments, I realized that I had passed a big test only to fail in the lesser ones. True, I had learned to put all things into His hands - in that one area. But there are so many other things that, in their own quiet way, are pushing God out of His rightful place in my heart. Oh, they aren't pushing Him out altogether. They are far too subtle for that. They are just making for a rather crowded, unbalanced heart - trying to push and shove their way into first place.

He is a gentle Father. His love is filled with infinite understanding of our weakness. He applauds our successes and is patient with our struggles. He reminds us of the things that need to be removed from our hearts so that He can put in their place blessing upon blessing. He knows what is best for us. The things we cling to with tightly clenched fists find their true worth only when we place them in His hands.