Yesterday, beside being my last day before the fall break, was my niece's wedding in New Jersey. She and her longtime boyfriend married in a lovely ceremony near the ocean. I wasn't able to attend due to school, work, and costs, but my sister-in-law said the event was spectacular. Knowing these two people well, both creative artists, I am sure it was amazing.
I was thinking about their wedding this morning when I texted my sister-in-law for the details. It was so nice to hear that the event went as planned and everyone was enjoying themselves. I started to think about how time has passed by, so much time has passed, since we were all together and my nieces and nephews were still little (they are now 32-24 in age). My family always loved spending time with my brother's family in Southern California. It seems, though, as time has passed, we have all changed, so radically in some ways. I mean, I am not the same person I was all those years ago when I would drive down from Northern California for a visit. I know they are not the same either, but it seems bittersweet in some ways to me. So much has changed, so much water under the bridged.
Just this morning, as I watched my parents lumber through the house as the smoke alarm went off (again) for no reason, I realized their age. They are 83 now, and they both have health challenges. They live comfortably with me, but in truth, they are aging and getting to the point where they cannot be on their own. Likewise, my son is 23, and for all intents and purposes, he is a grown man. He is still in school, but soon he will be out on his own. I am happy that he is finally becoming more content with his life, his personality, his own self. I want him to be safe, to be secure, and to know he has a solid future ahead of him. I don't want him to waffle, to be lost to culture, or to find that he cannot cope with life or the world around him. My prayer every day is that the Lord would continue to hold onto him tightly, to make him more sure of himself and more dependent on the Lord for his every need. This is my prayer, always my prayer.
Now, I am in control, in charge, completely free to make decisions based on what I think is best for me, for my life, for my family. In some ways, this thought, this fact, excites me. In other ways, it scares me. In truth, as I have discovered over the past three-four months, I have come to sense the empowering ability, capability really, of what it means to go-it alone with the Lord. I cannot really express it better than to simply say that I have come to lean on, rely on, and abide in the Lord to such an extent over the past year, that I cannot imagine living life any other way. I feel His power, His presence, and His position as I consider options, muse over ideas, and generally, live my life day in and day out. I am consumed by His delight, and in this way, my entire focus, all my energy and my aspirations are funneled into one common pursuit -- to do His work, His will, and in His way -- to accomplish all His desires in my life. #IAmConsumedbyHim
The word, "consumed," is used in this way to mean "to destroy, as by decomposition or burning" (Dictionary.com). The word itself, as a verb, is often used to mean "to eat or drink (something)" or "to use (fuel, time, resources, etc.)" (Merriam-Webster.com). However, when I speak about being consumed by God, I simply mean that my relationship with Him has consumed me like a fire consumes dry brush. In this manner, I am suggesting that as I have come into this relationship, developed quality time with the Lord, I have been consumed or done away with as a result. Merriam Webster suggests that to consume something often can be used to say "to destroy (something) with fire" and this is what I am saying. In Hebrews 12:28-29, the writer of this text says, "Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming Fire." Often this suggests the wrath of God, but I believe it is meant to demonstrate the power and authority of God as well as His righteous judgement. We see this clearly in the Old Testament, specifically in Deuteronomy 4:23-24, where it says,
"So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."
This passage, in particular, was referencing the covenant between God and the Israelites and was warning the people against practicing idolatry as they once did. This passage clearly illustrates that our God, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Issac, desires His people to be wholly devoted, consistent in their followership, and loyal to one God only. He is a jealous God, as Moses stated. Our God has an all-consuming personality. He plays no favorites, but He expects absolutely devotion and loyalty. In return, He grants peace, shelter, covering, and mercy -- oh, sweet mercy -- and His presence fills the void in our hearts, the void caused by sin.
Earnestly Seek the Lord
Some 32-33 years ago, I heard a song written by a popular Christian group, "Second Chapter of Acts," that set me on this collision course with an all-consuming God. I had been a Christian for a couple years then, but I had really started to grow in my faith when I was introduced to Christian music. This was in the late 1970s and Christian music was in its infancy. I didn't attend a megachurch or nondenominational church back then, so worship to me consisted of hymns from the Lutheran hymnal. But thanks to some young Christian friends, I started to experience worship through Christian music, mostly performed in small concerts in local churches. The style of music was often folk-oriented, but some included more "rock-like" elements with drums and keyboards.
During this time, I was seeking the Lord earnestly. I was desperate to find God, to know God, and to understand why in my short 15-20 years, I suffered so much. My heart had been broken, horribly broken, by a young man who professed his love and devotion to me, promised to marry me, and in return, left me for another woman (whom he soon after married). I had been betrayed, and in many ways, this young man stole my virtue from me, wasted it on his own indulgences, and then told me that he had been engaged to another woman all the time he was seeing me. Yes, this Christian man two-timed me, and I was left crushed. I was so alone, vulnerable, and longing to understand why I could be hurt so badly at such a young and tender age.
It wasn't long after this crushing blow that I heard Psalm 63, sung so beautifully by Matthew Ward and his sisters, Annie Herring and Nelly Greisen. This "Jesus Music" band was big in the 1970s and early 1980s, and this song appeared on the album, "Encores," in 1981. The first time I heard this song, my heart burst wide open, and I cried tears of joy. I realized that what I wanted most in my life, longed for most in my life, was not a young man (as in my former boyfriend), but rather, the One who saved me from my sins. Yes, I wanted the Perfect Man, and I wanted to live devoted to Him. This song resonated in my heart, and the words and music today, still will percolate up for me when I least expect them to do so. My heart earnestly longs for my Lord, and He is the only One who will ever fill my soul, meet my needs, and care for me with absolute devotion and uncompromising integrity. He is my King, my Savior, my Lord. He is my only hope, and I can trust Him to treat me, love me, and uphold me with dignity, righteous favor, and great mercy. He is good, so very good to me.
My Soul Thirsts for You
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
In this beautiful Psalm, David poured out his heart to God. He writes how his soul thirsts for the Lord, how his soul clings to Him. In a like manner, this is exactly how I feel as well. My heart, my lips give praise to God alone, and my soul literally clings to God. I desire nothing else. I long for no other thing. I want no one but God in my life. I cannot explain how deeply committed or devoted I am to the Lord because my words fail me, but suffice it to say, I have come to recognize that the only One in whom I can trust is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My Souls Thirsts for You
It was not long after this crushing moment that I entered into another relationship with a young man. This time, I believed he was different than the previous man. I trusted him because, he too, came from a God-centered and God-honoring family. My first boyfriend was a Pastor's son. My second, the man whom I would marry, was a child of missionaries. In my limited view and understanding, and yes, my sheltered world, I believed that Godly parents raise Godly children, and thus, they are trustworthy, believable, and safe choices for relationships.
I married for love, protection, safety, and shelter, and unfortunately, after 30 years of marriage, I was betrayed a second time. I was cast off, set aside, in favor of another woman. Sadly, my husband did the same thing to me that my first boyfriend did. He took from me my virtue, my youthfulness, my purity, and used it for his own gain. I was left stained, and as a result, I was unable to recover from my experience. I did what I thought was right, and I married this man who said he loved me, needed me, wanted me. I found out later on that this was not the case. I learned that he never loved me, never wanted me, but that he too felt "guilty" and "didn't want to hurt me." I was used, abused, and betrayed -- twice in one life time.
In all, I suffered two significant betrayals in my young life. I was taken advantage of by young men who said they professed Christ. As a young Christian, I didn't really know better, and despite warnings from friends and family, I willingly remained in relationships that were devastating and detrimental to my life. My heart was shattered. My hopes dashed. My life ruined. Or so I believed.
On the back side of that experience, and with some 32 years in between, I now stand as a woman who has been cast off twice, but who is victorious just the same. I stand as a formerly shattered woman, a child really, who was treated badly, shamefully, and despite all odds, who survived and who overcame the heartbreak, the hardship, and the horror. Yes, I have overcome the sorrow and the pain, and I have learned, as a result, to lean on and to depend on my God for my salvation. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be trusted, to be revered, to be adored. #Heismyhope
This is why I cry out with the psalmist when he says,
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
And, just like with David, it is my soul that longs for Him, that thirsts for Him. I am smitten with the Lord, and I desire no one else but God alone.
Moving On and Resting in Him Alone
I guess my heart has been thinking along these lines for such a long time now. I have considered my life, how I would like to live or spend the next 20-30 years, and one thing is certain: I intend to do nothing other than seek the Lord and serve Him with my whole heart. I intend to follow Him, to go where He sends me, to live where He directs, and to do the work He has assigned to me. There is no other life for me now. I realize this, I accept it as fact, and no matter how much I try to envision a different life, this is what I see. I see my life as being part-and-parcel to His work. There will be no other avenue, no other way, no other diversion. I am committed to Him. I am consumed by Him. I have come to experience the blessing of a relationship with my Lord that is all-consuming. I need nothing save the Lord. I long for nothing but His faithful presence, His goodness, His favor has He showers me, covers me, blesses me. I refuse to consider any other options at this point in time. I am settled. I am at peace. I am at rest.
I recite Jeremiah 29:11, which says, "For I know the plans I have for you—this is the Lord’s declaration—plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope," to remind me that the Lord has a good plan for my life. And, despite all the obstacles in my path, I am committed to letting the Lord have His way in and through my life. I am so in love with my Lord. He satisfies me. He completes me. He makes me whole. He brings goodness to my life. He upholds me, lifts my head, and sets my feet on the solid rock. I am safe in His loving arms, I am steadied by His strong might. I can trust Him. I can rest in Him. He is my all. I know this, I believe it is so, and I am convinced that He is my ROCK, my REFUGE and my STRONG TOWER.
Today, I recall all that the Lord has done for me over the course of the past 54 years. I am a strong woman, a mighty warrior princess, a daughter of the King. I stand strong, ready, and willing to do His work this good, good day. I am empowered by His abilities, and my capabilities have pushed the limits and boundaries of mortal man because it is my Lord who is working in me and through me for His praise, His honor, and His glory. I can do nothing without Him, and because it is my sincere desire for Him to receive all praise, I let Him have His way in me. He is doing something wonderful, and He graciously allows me to participate, to enjoy -- to watch -- as He completes the work He has started in me. I am in awe of Him, and I revere His good name.
As I think about all of this, meditate upon it, I am utterly convinced that my life is where it is today because it was His desire to allow the circumstances of my choices to form and to create strength, dignity, and hope within me. My victory was born out of sacrifice. My power has developed through trial and tribulation. I have been brought low through abuse and suffering, but I have gained wisdom, understanding, and yes, compassion, through experience. Now, I am ready to go and do His work. I have been made new, reborn, refitted, and retrofitted for His good work. I go now, and I do His work. I rest in His strength, His power, His might. I watch as the Lord of Glory arrives in splendor, as He moves and makes and manages the details of my life in order to bring Himself and His majestic name praise. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!
My heart sings a new song this good day. I look up, and I wait on the Lord for His provision of goodness. I have enough. I am satisfied. I am soul-thirsty, but the Giver of Living Water, has met my needs with His marvelous sufficiency. He has me well covered, and today I acknowledge that despite my circumstances, I will be victorious. I will be a champion, and I will overcome. #HeConsumesMe He is my VICTOR AND MY CHAMPION, and today, He is my sincere and complete DELIGHT.