“Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia? Seek, concentrate, and you will find.”
Out of Oswald Chamber’s daily readings, I read the words and feel that familiar pang of conviction and realization. That perhaps all my life, when pain or conviction have come, I have been the one to offer languid cries of despair and the begging of forgiveness and renewed faith, all the while withholding those pieces of me that will be too difficult to surrender. The words harangue me with their truth and I know it in my bones: I am the shrinking soul scratching at the gates from time to time, asking for peace and joy and faith to overwhelm me because I need relief from my own moral neuralgia. And now, this year, as my questions have swelled with complexity and uncertainty, I feel the pangs of loneliness – the ones that come as He declutters and rearranges this little house that is my heart.
My heart quickens as the words go on and soon they are consuming me. Finally, there are words that give justice to the affliction inside of me:
“Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. ‘Draw nigh to God.’ Knock – the door is closed, and you suffer from palpitation as you knock. ‘Cleanse your hands’ – knock a bit louder, you begin to find you are dirty. ‘Purify your heart’ – this is more personal still, you are desperately in earnest now – you will do anything. ‘Be afflicted’ – have you ever been afflicted before God at the state of your inner life? There is no strand of self-pity left, but a heartbreaking affliction of amazement to find that you are the kind of person that you are. ‘Humble yourself’ – it is a humbling business to knock at God’s door – you have to knock with the crucified thief. ‘To him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”
Can I be the only one to feel their breath hitch in their throat as these words wash over us? I am that small little soul knocking, feeling overcome with panic and grief as I shuffle closer and closer to him, becoming more aware with each passing second of my filth. I’ve had these moments before but I feel as though this entire year has been an inching closer, a heartbreaking realization of the pride and sin, the assumptions that have engulfed me.
All these years, I have stayed with Him only a short time and then returned to this condition of being half-dead while still alive. As Oswald writes later in the month, my new name in Him is written only in those areas of my life where I have relinquished pride, independence, and selfishness. He wants to write my new name all over me – to rebuild me and call me daughter. The time is now.
He won’t stop until He has all of me.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Breathe in. Breathe out. Moments of abrupt pain and undoing and then the dull ache lingers long as the blood flowing from those wound slows and regeneration begins its work. He just won’t stop until He has all of me and if I’m being honest, I’m a little scared and weary. It’s not an easy thing to do, to go to Him. To let him imbue me with life, rewriting the narrative of my faith.
When I started asking questions, I never imagined He would take me apart so completely. I have knocked, more than I have before and have found myself utterly afflicted before him. So much so that I’ve had to look away, for fear the brightness blind me. I have been amazed to find out just the kind of person I am – standing alongside the crucified thief. And to my insistent knocking, he has found me and battered me. I escape from His hand for a moment every so often and try to mold myself into a shape that is less painful. I can’t outrun him, though, and when he finds me, He breathes this sweet strong life into me and we begin again; He picks up where he left off.
I don’t want to admit that I’m no longer sure of the absolutes I once called my firm ground. It’s all shifting beneath me and if you asked me, I’d tell you that I just don’t know anymore. He’s chipping away at what I thought I knew and I’m learning to be okay with having been wrong all this time. If God is who we say He is, it’s impossible to pin Him down.
I want him to write my new name upon every fiber of my being but it feels a lot like drowning. My firm ground is gone and he is taking me apart, yet, somehow, I still know He is my stronghold and my stay. My hope.
Be my stay. Let pride not inflate me but let your love and truth reduce me. Reduce me. That there may be more of You.