“Be revealed to me as the
only fitting and suitable place of rest
where my soul is truly satisfied.”
/ Part I /
Good morning friends! I can’t think of a more illuminating way to begin a new day than to soak up this prayer from the pen of John Owen and make it our own. What Marie Kondo is to all the unnecessary stuff that clutters our closets and drawers, Owen is to words on a page. His are carefully edited thoughts, leaving us with only the truly important. Here is depth and beauty packed into a single sentence, waiting to be opened up and applied. Let’s dive in!
“Be revealed to me …”
A prevalent blind spot as Christ followers in the twenty-first century is that we often possess a less than humble, teachable heart. We’ve heard so much, read so much, debated so much, and concluded so much that the notion of quietly listening and allowing His word to instruct us can be challenging at times. Acknowledging our childlike dependence on Him to make known and disclose who He is is the best place to start. After all, our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) This also encompasses an experiential knowledge of God’s mercy, love, faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, trustworthiness, kindness, holiness — all His wonderful attributes — cultivated in times of both blessing and testing.
“Affliction may be lasting,
but it is not everlasting;
a sting, but with a wing;
sorrow shall soon fly away.”
Hi, friends. I’ve been thinking about this laconic reminder, written for those who wonder if the storm you’re weathering is ever going to relent. From the pen of Thomas Watson (1652), it has captured my imagination — to know the Father’s providence established that any testing in the lives of His children will be bounded by time. Now and again, hearing truth we believe expressed in a fresh new way animates our hearts to trust Him through the waiting.
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”
If you’ve joined previous conversations here at Readplenish, an underlying theme soon becomes apparent — our need to take the long view of life, especially while walking and working through the hard stuff. On a personal note, this truth has been transformative. Not only is it biblical and therefore good on every level, all along the way it has proven grounding, “… a hope, as an anchor for the soul.” (Heb. 6:19) And while a broad brush stroke is rarely an accurate way to paint anything, this long view can be a very pragmatic lens, effectually filtering out both cynicism and sentimentality.
That being said, the other side of the coin is also worth exploring. For lack of a better way to say this, I’ve adopted a common phrase from the world of horticulture — living seasonally. Fully inhabiting the present. Allowing the hope of spring, the abundance of summer, and the harvest of autumn to sustain us through the long cold nights of winter. The ancient poetry of Ecclesiastes can hardly be improved upon: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—a time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to grieve, a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:1,4). However, regardless of the season in life, we can know with absolute certainty: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”(Lamentations 3:22-23) Continue reading
“We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s
love in happiness. We should instead
look for them in his faithful and
persistent work to conform us to Christ.”*
How like us to often confuse what is easy with what is best; to settle for crumbs of fleeting felicity when we can instead feast at His table and, like Mary, sit at His feet choosing the “main course” (Luke 10:42, MSG), “the good part” (NASB). But choosing the good part isn’t always a smooth path and our human bent naturally pulls away from embracing discipline or obedience or trust when it comes at the price of our happiness. We are, after all, inclined to look for time saving, pain avoiding ways to do just about everything (spoken as someone who, when given the choice, is all about simplicity). But I’m learning that, while this approach serves so well to effectively expedite a myriad of temporal tasks, in the holy work of heart work, there are no shortcuts, no alternate routes. It’s a lifelong journey, and one that often uncomfortably stretches us and asks that we embrace the long view of things.
“He who rides to be crowned
will not think much
of a rainy day. “
Can’t you just picture it? Horse and rider are soaked to the bone; cold, muddy, and you would think, feeling downright miserable. But for this traveler, the stormy day is nothing more than a side-note — he’s riding to receive his crown! With destination and reward clearly in focus, somehow his blurry view takes on a whole new perspective. Everything happening in the moment – things he can touch and feel and see aren’t what fill his thoughts. Rather, he knows the reason for the journey far outweighs the hardships all around him. Although his furrowed brow, rain soaked face, and squinting eyes betray the testing, he leans forward on his galloping horse, looking past the immediacy of the falling drops.
With an ever-so-faint smile
he rides on as the warm glow
of both hearth and crowning
play out in his mind.
“And from my smitten heart
two wonders I confess;
the wonder of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.”
Sitting in church listening to the beautiful hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, I couldn’t get past this one line. No doubt, many find this lyric to be harsh at best. “… my unworthiness”? Did the writer really mean to sound so severe? Ms. Clephane, you’re bringing us down!
RC Sproul helps us understand why this lyric presents such a disconnect in a day when fallen human nature is celebrated and our prideful disobedience placated to unimaginable lengths. He wrote: “Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.” And so, the language of this old hymn seems jarring to contemporary sensibilities and twenty-first century self-awareness and empowerment. But, perhaps the unvarnished words of this hymn should give us pause.