Disclaimer: This is a bit all over the place.
Every time a new year comes, I know that my Christian friends will divide into two camps. The first camp thinks that New Year’s Resolutions are “silly” or something to that effect. They’ll support their comment with something along the lines that the Holy Spirit’s presence in us should be refining and empowering us all year. What’s so special about one day? The second camp will most likely agree theologically with the first in regards to the Holy Spirit’s presence but then may add that new year’s resolutions can still be fun and what’s the harm in joining the rest of the world as we focus on tackling goals or areas of repentance/obedience should we prayerfully consider them?
In case you were wondering, I fall in the second camp.
So, with the first of the year, I was thinking quite a bit about what my resolutions would be for 2014. I went on a run (because I had to since I’m training for my first big race in February) and decided to use the 27 minutes of huffing and puffing to pray through what the Lord might be calling me to (because the Holy Spirit is so good to me). Admittedly, I ran, prayed, forgot to pray, and then started again all while listening to Beautiful Eulogy‘s newest album’s title track, Instruments of Mercy. As the second verse started then came to an end, I had a clear indicator that the Lord wanted me to work towards remembering that He’s smiling.
Before I elaborate on what that means, I thought I’d share the more relevant portions of Instruments of Mercy’s verse with my emphasis added (wait! do hip hop/rap artists actually have verses?):
A lifetime of suffering is nothing compared to the glory being prepared,
and we can never find a stairway to heaven or climb up a ladder to get there.
It’s only by the merits of Christ that sinners inherit eternal life.
So I pray we grow in dependency, strip away my self-reliant tendencies.
Organize and order my days according to your ordinance.
I’m an instrument in your orchestra, Lord and you are my only audience.
Holding your promises close and watching as your plan unfolds,
All for your glory and praise playing the song that you composed.
The last two lines deeply resonate with me. You see, in addition to Scripture, illustrative examples really help me understand the character of God and His plan for humanity. Spurgeon’s Nightingale and C.S. Lewis’ ignorant child making mud pies in a slum are among my favorites. Beautiful Euology’s lyrics are no different – as I ran I could easily understand and empathize with not only holding the Father’s plan close but actually clutching them to my chest only to have them taken gently from me and laid out so I could see them unfold over time.
Admittedly, a lump kind of built up in my throat because as far as I know, God’s plan will only be fully revealed when Jesus returns and His worshipers join God in heaven for eternity. And I’m so excited. But it seems so far away. And while I have full assurance about Jesus’ ultimate victory, I often grow impatient and want to get a sneak peek at the role I play in that.
Which takes me to back to the point (hey, it’s only a 150-ish words later) about remembering that God’s smiling. You see, this spring/summer, I got my own illustrative example which I’ve been doing my best to remember. It started with a guy and ended up with a bit of embarrassment. In short, my insecurity of not wanting to play games or be played simply created confusion bringing me the highly-relished opportunity to over think and worry. Instead of approaching the Lord with a heart postured toward casting off anxieties or letting Him lead through the mess, I wanted answers in regards to what in the heck was going on. My great job, fulfilling service at Church, exponentially wonderful family, wise circle of friends/mentors, and the general sweetness of the summer season fell flat. In the aftermath I simply wanted answers regarding what the Lord had planned for me. And I didn’t just want answers regarding this relationship, I wanted a flood light on the who she-bang, my entire being! Whenever I thought about it my stomach flipped, my internal temperature increased by at least one degree and I held my breath. While I was manic, I was also exasperated and saddened by the fact that I knew I was being unreasonable yet was still fueling the desire to demand answers all the same. Then, one day as I was laying in bed trying to sleep, I pictured God, the Father standing at an architect’s drafting table. He called me to come to Him offering His hand. I took it and looked up (he was much taller than I was) watching Him as he used his free hand to sketch what I somehow understood to be my life’s work. I was intrigued not only by what was on the paper (I couldn’t see high enough to see what He was creating) but the fact that the Father was smiling. And not just in a fake, trying-to-bear-me-to-be-nice-because-He’s-God-after all kind of way, but a genuine, broad smile. Could it be that His plan for me gave him so much joy that he could smile with so much confidence? I anxiously rose on my tip toes trying to catch any glimpse of what plans the Lord had for me. Immediately, the Lord stooped down, looked me in the eyes and gently questioned me. “Why was I in such a hurry? Wasn’t He faithful and true? Could the fact that He was smiling be enough for me in my moments of doubt or impatience?” Thankfully, I understood and concurred with Him: yes, He is the most faithful and true being I have come to know and yes, knowing He is happy crafting me as his workmanship is enough.
In the months following, I have had bouts where I have been happy to stand, keeping my eyes on Jesus while clenching his hand. There are other moments though where I have cast my gaze and heart on something less worthy but all the more enticing in the moment. And, worse, there have been brief but terrifying episodes where I have practically pulled at the Father’s hand pleading with Him to let me go believing the terrible, dark lie that finding my own drafting table, paper and pen and being left to my own devices would be better.
So you see, Beautiful Eulogy’s lyrics which pray to the Father that we would forget ourselves and grow in reliance on Him were sweet and timely words. As was the permission I received in the middle of my run to remember that the Lord, well, He’s smiling.
O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure. (Isaiah 25:1, ESV)