From the Heart

found

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My steps are jagged and haphazard as I skirt around the puddles that are quickly overtaking the sidewalk. Of course, today of all days, I wore cloth flats and a hoodless coat to work. I guess I hadn’t noticed the gathering stormy clouds. And now, here I am, caught in the rain with chattering teeth and soggy toes, walking to…well I am not exactly sure where I am going.

I have been wandering around this way for at least forty five minutes. I can’t seem to decide whether I should walk the two miles home or find some place to sit and wait out the rain. But by this time, I realize I could have been home already. Instead I am circling the same block and each time the puddles deepen and I lose more feeling in my fingers and toes.

And the clamor in my head and trembling in my heart are growing.

I look up to see the mountains above the housetops, hoping they will somehow guide my direction, provide some staying presence. But even the mountains are not visible, cloaked in thick fog.

And words emerge in my mind amidst the commotion, like fragments of old familiar song lyrics piecing themselves together in my memory. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? What comes next? My help…ah yes, my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 My help comes from the Lord.  

The gulp in my throat stops me in my tracks.

The truth is, I have been feeling rather lost recently. Wandering around in the rain, wondering where I am going. Heading in other directions rather than to the One who is my help. I am like a blind person trying to find a friend in a crowd of strangers. There are so many things grasping for my attention and affection, taking up counterfeit thrones in my heart. And lately, it seems like a losing battle.

I scold myself. Why can I spend two hours at the gym or on a hike, but struggle to find twenty minutes to spend in the Word? Even when I do sit down and open my Bible, I’m interrupted with texts or emails from my phone lying beside me on the couch. My words are taken up with complaints rather than thanksgivings. When I am stressed or overwhelmed, my thoughts run to worry rather than to prayer. The temptation to think about something –anything—but God is sometimes so strong I don’t even realize its presence.

At times like these, when I feel my “spiritual performance” is lacking, I wonder how I ever considered myself a “good Christian.” And I wonder what is wrong with me. I want to want Christ, not just His approval, but Him. Angrily, I stomp into a large puddle and muddy water splatters my leg.

My thoughts travel to my man who has, these recent clear spring evenings, taken to going on drives several miles out of town so he can watch the night sky. Trace the stories told by the stars in the blackness. It seems both he and I are learning to look up in our dark nights, learning to see the Light, the Hope, the Beauty. That all-knowing, Creator God who set the moon and the stars to rule over the night, for His steadfast love endures forever…He also sees me and knows me at all times. He does not abandon me when I stumble over myself but it is He who remembered me in my low estate, for His steadfast love endures forever. He rescued me from my foes – even my pride, my idolatry, my self-protection. For His steadfast love endures forever.

You realize the brightness of the sun after you have been sitting in the dark awhile. And you greater know and more intimately understand God’s holiness and mercy after you have grasped your own unworthiness. A deep, plunging comprehension of my own inability to contribute anything to my salvation drives me to cling all the more tightly to the Gospel as my lifeline.

So come ye weary, heavy-laden–lost and ruined by the fall. Broken and needy—this is me! But can I, dare I, come? My unfaithfulness, my piddly attempt at love, my faint hints of worship, are shameful. I take a few steps forward and then fall on my face. But…If you tarry until you’re better, you will never come at all

What can I do but cry out to the Creator of the stars? There is no shame in giving voice the whispers inside. The shame is when I keep them hidden and try to quiet them on my own. Doesn’t after all, Elohim, “the God who sees,” know every nook and cranny of my wanderlusting heart?

So I open my mouth and tell God how it is: Prone to wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love. I am the prodigal daughter, disillusioned by the things of this world, dirty and ashamed, trying to find my way back home. I am the sheep who has drifted into a thorn bush and is now bleating for rescue.

And He – Elohim, Loving Father, Good Shepherd, says: I will seek the lost and bring back the strayed. I Myself will search for My sheep. He sees, He knows, He seeks, He finds. He restores. The prodigal is embraced, clothed, fed, rejoiced over. Because even though she hasn’t felt like it, she is still the King’s daughter.

Yes, I must believe that Jesus is looking out for me. When I am floundering, stuck in my own worries and doubts, I must cling to His promise to not leave me or forsake me. I must take courage in the truth that my salvation is accomplished and daily sustained—not in me, praise God! But in Him—my Shepherd, my Sun, my Hope. The Lord who is my help. Look not to yourself for guidance, but to Him!

And my heart sings out—Here’s my heart, O take and seal it! I don’t trust myself with my wanderlust heart. But oh Jesus, I want to trust You with it! Seal it for Thy courts above.

I was lost, but not anymore.

And finally, I have made it home. The rain has slowed, but I am soaked through. Drenching, cleansing rain. Shaking off my jacket, I climb the front stoop. There, wedged between my glass and front doors is a package. It is the Bible study book an older Christian sister has recommended to me. She has offered to come alongside me in this rainy season, to encourage me to press in deeper to Christ. To dig into the Word and to find the Son.

I take the package inside with me, open it up and pull out the book. I peel the soggy flats off my feet and step into my fuzzy slippers. The kettle goes on the stove. Then I get a towel to put around my neck so my hair doesn’t drip all over the floor. I pick up a few pens too – a green, red, and blue one. Settling into the couch, I take a deep breath and shut my eyes.

An image comes to my mind. This time, I am not looking to the mountains for guidance. But a Shepherd stands over me, his comforting staff extended toward me. Somehow, I know that He has been there all along, but in the rain and fog I had not seen Him.

Come, little sheep, little sinner. Look to Him and be found.

 

*Scripture, in order of appearance: Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Ezekial 34. Lyrics from “Come You Sinners, Poor and Needy” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” woven throughout.

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