Beautifully Yours

I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen short of you.. but you say I am worth all my weight in your arms.. that I am worth every tear, every scar.. every break in your innocent heart.

But when have I loved you like you have loved me? I love you with all of my broken heart, with my whole wounded soul.. but your love is pure and full.

Your love is constant and unfailing. Your love is undivided. Entirely committed and wholehearted. True through life and death. Strong for a thousand years.

You could have chosen to pursue a lover worthy of your heart. She could shine with the radiance of the sun and burn for you with its passion. She could plant her feet in the depths of the sea and still stand taller than me. She could reach the notes I cannot sing. She could dance upon the ground where I fell. She could love you well.

She would never need the blood you shed for me, and your tears would be full of joy, never grief. You’d never have to know how heartbreak feels, or jealousy. You’d live without the painful memories of death, because you would have married her at an altar and not a cross. She would have held your gaze when I turned away. She would have stayed through the night when I left your side. Yet you chose me for your bride, and you’ve given your eternal life.

I can only imagine the reason for your brutal pursuit is how loving me proves you true, through and through. It’s as if you’re an author with one novel to write, one story to forever tell what you’re like, and when I crossed your mind, you knew what I’d require. In that moment you knew the hell you’d face, and how your heart would break, and so you called my name. In the greatest expression of what it means to be Love, you called me your beloved.

The mystery is that your love is not merely the pitiful kind. You have chosen me for your bride. You could have loved me well by loving me at all, but you love me in every way possible.. I have your fullest attention, even your deepest affection.

The greatest gift you’ve ever given me has been yourself. You’ve held nothing back. And just to think God himself could be my closest companion, the truest Lover of my soul.. It may be scandalous or even foolish to think, and if I made it up I should be ridiculed. But by your initiation it is glorious. Far too wonderful for words..

Still, we are only at the conflict, in the middle of the story, and as with any great story the best part is how it ends. And I know you are the one who calls things that are not, as though they were. You call light to shine out of darkness. And I know now I see in part what I will one day see in full. Now I see a poor reflection of things, dim and indistinct. Then I will have full vision.

Then I will see your face, and you will look at me like you’ve looked at no one else.. and just to think I could have your full attention for a moment is a weight of glory too great..

Then I will sing effortlessly with you, my Melody, as your perfect harmony. I will dance again, and missing a step will only mean falling into your arms. And I won’t break your heart or leave you scars. I will be fit for you, finally. I will be good for you, perfectly. Because I’ve been made for you..

Then I will see you, and I will be made like you, shining with the radiance of the sun. In a flash of brilliant light, in a timeless and glorious moment, all at once, I will be yours.. beautifully yours.


Struggling with God

Beyond the fear of losing those I love, of losing my health, of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, is my restless thought of losing God.

I don’t think I can actually lose God’s presence, just my present experience and enjoyment of him.

I mind no circumstance the way I mind my suspicions resulting from it, the doubts that disturb my confidence, the wavering that breaks sweet fellowship.

I think of a newly married husband and wife. They share their hearts, their bodies, and their lives. They touch places in each other withheld from the world. They share their souls, which are intangible yet incredibly vulnerable. It’s easy to imagine that if one of them were to suddenly disappear one night, there would be a heart wrenching conflict of emotion in the one left behind.

The deeper your experience of love, the deeper your questions, Where are you? Do you still love me? How could unfailing love look or feel like this? In the presence of incredible love, you become incredibly accessible as your intangible being is expressed, communicated, given. You would never share your defenseless soul unless you felt it was safe to do so.

And then, in what feels like love’s absence, you become just the opposite. You are closed, guarded, careful. All at once the arms that brought you home have left you out in the cold, and pain rushes into the places you felt loved. Are we much different in our response to an apparently absent God?

If a desperate prayer seems unanswered long enough, or a promise withheld from experience, the heart once so vulnerable with trust turns to stone at the thought of betrayal. The faithful become skeptical. The passion becomes dull. And we blame God’s distance, but we are the ones who have hidden ourselves.

What is actually worse than the seemingly unanswered prayer or broken promise is the breaking of intimate fellowship. The deeper problem of any circumstance is our loss of trust in God’s tender care for our soul. Otherwise, our hardship would be a manageable external circumstance, not an agonizing inner conflict resulting in spiritual depression and emotional distance. We would struggle with God, not against him.

Certainly if a husband fully trusted his bride, because he knew the reason she left in the middle of the night was to meet her mother in the hospital, he would not experience heartache nearly as he would if he believed she had left him. Even if he missed her for the night, he wouldn’t feel overcome with loneliness, uncertainty, and betrayal, as if she meant to leave him.

If anyone knows what it’s like to become intimate friends with God, and then feel left behind in the middle of the night, it is John. On the night Jesus was betrayed, John rested his head on his chest. He was close enough to hear his heartbeat and feel him breathe. He enjoyed the depths of love, of joy, of peace. He knew vulnerability. God himself was his closest companion, his greatest love. The sun set that beautiful evening only to rise again as the Son of God, John’s beloved one, was crucified before his eyes.

John, the beloved disciple, may have had more reason than anyone in the world to feel abandoned by God while he died on the cross. As Jesus breathed his last breath, I wonder if John questioned him, Where are you? Do you still love me? How could unfailing love look or feel like this? Yet John was the only friend who stayed with Jesus until the end. There were thousands upon thousands who followed Jesus when he fed them, but when it appeared he had nothing to offer but blood and tears, John was the only one left.

It’s easy for us to look back and see the cross as God’s proof of love, but all John saw when he looked up was loss. The tragic and sudden death of Love. But he didn’t leave.

When I look at Love and only see loss, when God doesn’t fit into my box, can’t he still be as good as I hoped he was? Can’t I be the one loyal friend in a thousand?

I don’t think people who live in love with God should despair when they’re numb and overcome with questions. I think the deeper we question God’s love and suffer its apparent absence implies the depth we’ve experienced it.

I think those who seek God with their whole broken heart will find him, and that he will prove himself a true friend. I think he’ll relate to those well acquainted with grief, and bring relief. I think we can come close enough to count the tears he has cried over us, to hear the prayers, to feel the scars. To struggle with him, and not against. To break with him, and not away from him. To grieve, and not grieve his Spirit. To be angry, and not sin. To trust him, even in pain. To love him, and never look away.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. O people… you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.
(Isaiah 30:18-19)

Alone with you

God wills that we should push into his presence and live our whole life there.
A.W. Tozer

We live in a world with 7 billion people, and yet to some certain degree we all go through life alone. Our journey is our own. It is incredible to find a few to share your soul with, to think out loud with, to simply be with. But even after the nights where there’s no such thing as time, after you’ve shared laughter and tears, words and silence, hopes and fears, morning comes. And overnight, even while you are both asleep, distance happens.

We would love to live all of life together, to be there for each other and catch every fall, but the reality is, we are not. We are limited. Our presence is mostly limited to our being together.

footprintsWhen I share myself with my friends I like to be face to face, present with them. When I share myself with God I would obviously prefer being face to face, but until then I like to write or sing to him. I didn’t realize how uniquely comfortable I was writing to God until a close friend who I’d share anything with asked me a personal question over email. I sat down to write, but nothing happened. I couldn’t just bear my soul and push “send” all while she was entirely somewhere else. I needed her presence. I’m starting to think half of friendship is conversation, and the other half is being present. And what I realized is how truly God, and God alone, is ever present. While I write to him, he responds. He’s responding to me in this moment. He is ever present.

I have struggled with the fact that the Lover of my soul, my best friend in the world, is invisible. We are always together, yet no one sees him walk into the room with me. I can’t hug him. We don’t have audible conversations. And then I remember the words he said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

And now he is my ever present Helper. He hears what I haven’t said yet, what I can’t articulate. My inmost being is not a mystery to him. He searches the depths of my heart. He experiences every season of my soul. I am known, understood, and loved, completely and perfectly. Every moment, he is present with me. And the time we share, words can’t convey how sweet, and how deep.

Nothing gives the believer so much joy as fellowship with Christ. He has enjoyment as others have in the common mercies of life, he can be glad both in God’s gifts and God’s works; but in all these separately, yea, and in all of them added together, he does not find such substantial delight as in the matchless person of his Lord Jesus Christ. (Spurgeon)

No matter how many friends we have, they cannot make up for Jesus. There is a loneliness in our existence only he can befriend. There is a depth only he can reach, a need he alone can meet, a brokenness only he can mend. There is a constancy, a faithfulness, a loyalty in his presence, which no other can attempt. There is a friendship no other could promise. There is an intimacy we will never know, unless experienced with him alone.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

Psalm 139:7-8

The godly will dwell in your presence…
You hide them in the secret place of your presence…
In your presence there is fullness of joy.

Psalm 140:13; 31:20; 16:11

Wholly other

However lovely I have found creation to be, however intimate my relationships, however sweet the sound of music to my soul, however deep my experiences, your presence permeates, but you are ever separate.

You fill everything I love, yet you are so high above. Intangibly elevated. Wholly other. If I lost it all, I’d have all of you still. I’ve called you Friend, Brother, Father, Lover, but you are more. You are my closest companion, and beyond my comprehension.

You are only who you are. You are set apart. You exist outside of space and time, independent of creation. In men you do abide, but when we die you don’t lose life. You were clothed in flesh, but you are not a man. You descend, but you transcend.

We have not found a mountain to match your height or an ocean to reach your depth. We have not seen a face so beautiful or heard a voice so powerful. We have glimpsed greatness, but nothing and no one so exceedingly glorious.

Our definitions become limitations where you cannot be contained or explained. Who can know your thoughts? Yet you share yourself with us. Who could change your ways? Yet you choose to answer our prayers.

I cannot fathom you but by your revelation. I cannot feel you but by your invitation. I cannot love you unless I am loved. And oh, how I am loved..

What other God would call men his friends? What other king would become a servant? What other father would give his only son for us? What other friend would pray for his enemies? What author would write himself into a love story which required his own blood? But this is what you’ve done.

As much as I understand of you, I love. I love how you must have a heavenly tongue, and yet you speak my language. I love how you could have come blazing like the sun, but you came hidden in my flesh and blood. You bore my pale image and acquainted yourself with my pain. You stepped into my well-worn shoes and took on my heavy chains. Holiness penetrated humanity, and God demonstrated impossible grace.

You came to know me in my world, and I want to know you in yours. Beyond flesh and blood, beyond experience, beyond aesthetics. I’ve tied you so tightly to these that it might break my heart to set you apart. But if these have become a looking glass, only keeping me from seeing you everywhere else, I will let it be shattered.

Maybe your being separate from all else makes you impossible to find, but it also means you are impossible to lose, which is the greatest truth.

A holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.
Dwight L. Moody

A matter of time

Becoming a Christian was the best, and undoubtedly the hardest decision I have ever made. I chose life and death in a single breath. Life to heaven, and death to all else.

My heart has found a home, but I can’t quite live there. My soul has found a mate, but he is a lifetime away.

I have found the love of my life, yet I search for him all the time. For years I’ve entertained a thought that gives me the same feeling I got when I was five and considering flying. Maybe just this once… Maybe just this once you’ll come to visit me. Maybe the moment I’m falling asleep you’ll come from heaven to kiss my head, and later pretend it was just a dream. And then I promise to keep our secret.. I have been the little girl who can’t understand why her father is gone on business for so long.

Twenty years later, my thoughts have turned to prayers and my conflict is twenty times greater. I have no idea how I am going to live my entire life so in love with Jesus while I can’t even look into his eyes, or hug him, or have an audible conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced him with my own senses, but he is like the wind. I have stood on holy ground and I’ve seen heaven all around, but in moments I’m most unaware it turns right back to earth. I’d give anything to keep the gold from going back to dirt.

On Sunday I feel God touch my skin, and on Monday I wake up alone again. If only our meetings weren’t so fleeting, maybe I could laugh at the threat of his absence. And I know that is his promise, that he is ever present, but oh, to claim such confidence, especially in the depths. Oh, to really know Jesus.

Since this conflicted prayer has permeated the air, I have heard that still, small, sweet voice speak a word so reassuring. I was gathering with the Church in the Tenderloin before we would scatter to visit some of San Francisco’s most neglected, seemingly God-forsaken residents, when he so clearly spoke Matthew 25:40 to my soul. Leah, as you visit them, truly you visit me. And that brought peace enough to meet my need.

And then I remembered these words that he said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16.7

How have I known Jesus but by his Holy Spirit? If he were flesh and blood like he once was, could I love him this much? Today, he does more than hold me in his arms – he holds my very heart.

I can’t tell where I end and where he begins, and if I could, wouldn’t that mean separation? Doesn’t our deep fellowship depend on our being one? If he had a body like mine, would it take away from the Spirit I hold inside?

If he says it is better not to wish for the way things were, I must take him at his word. With the way it is, our communion is truest. Not only by senses, but by soul and spirit.

And if I’ve found myself dreaming of the way he was, known in flesh and blood, I can only imagine what is still to come.. If he has won me while he was empty, how much more while he stands full of glory?

“And behold, I am coming soon!”
Rev. 22.7

This dance divine

I miss you. I miss you with a pain that nothing and no one can take away. It hurts too deep to admit, because it leaves me feeling desperate. But if I were saved from it, I’d lose all reason to exist.

I don’t know how I can make it through life without looking into your eyes. It’s hard to breathe deep without you by my side. I look and I search and I long and I yearn, but I grow tired. I am so tired. My soul can’t rest outside of your presence.

Every face I find, I search for your eyes. In every heartbeat I pray to find your pulse. In the midst of the many my heart longs for one. In their voices, to hear your words. In their arms, to feel your warmth.

Tears fall down my face for the times you’ve been away, though I know I am never alone. You are so close. Close enough to hear me breathe, yet a universe fills the space between. I cannot escape you, but you escape me everywhere. Just when I think I’ve found your hiding place, you slip away. Yet the moments I feel most distant you pull me in again, and I am overwhelmed.

Oh, ruined I am by the glimpses I’ve seen.. by this dance divine we’ve found ourselves in. Bits and pieces of you mean more than the world in full to me.

I can’t stop hoping for you and you alone. You and nothing else. You and nothing less. With all of creation I groan for salvation. For you to come again. For I am your beloved, and you.. you are my promise. My end. My heaven.

If you must

I put up a good fight, or so I thought, until you proved me wrong. Between us, I can’t say who’s more stubborn, but you for the good, and me, a rebel without reason. There’s no sense in fighting love. Yet I struggle until dawn. I reach for the light while resisting the sun.

I’ve prayed to be free, but to break from your embrace would mean the death of me. I cannot withstand gravity.

There’s a storm on the horizon and I can’t tell if it’s without or within, but nothing devastates like your salvation. You ruin me, for better or for worse, and I have nothing but a promise. And whether or not I believe it, it means everything.

I close my eyes for a moment, and I lay down my weapons, and I admit that my armor was never worth the weight. To prove my faith I’ll let it rust in the rain of your grace. I’ll let the wind chill my soul if you won’t let me go. Only hold me close.

If you must, break my trust until everything I’ve ever loved turns to dust, if that’s all it ever was.

If need be, leave me lonely until I plead your company. Let me struggle until you’re my peace. Let my life be bitter until I taste you so sweet.

I am nervous to ask you so much, but I’ll die if I don’t ask enough. Yet again I say, if you must.