I would like to share the content of this topic based on a bit of a testimonial in my own journey…
I heard the passage many times…Psalm 23, the Shepherd psalm, the valley psalm, and how it is supposed to bring comfort to anyone who reads it. Perhaps I never had a patient enough heart to really read it and soak it in most of my life, until more recent years, when life forced me to slam on the brakes.
I did not know what truly living in Christ was, although I had the desire, the pursuit (to whatever degree that was), and the conviction. I had some very unique experiences that many do not generally have, and opportunities to be used to touch people’s lives. But my own little kingdom began to experience cracks at the fault lines as God began to place His finger on these areas of weakness, and press, a little more firmly day by day…
…areas of pride, self-focused living, and control particularly. I began to discover, in a most uncomfortable and inconvenient way, that I had a spiritualized form of religiosity that conformed to and reinforced my personal issues. But since it was centered around Christ, my conscience was pacified because I was at least aware that I was in need of a Savior. And my unique experiences with God initially reinforced all the momentum of pride and control I was riding.
Then steps in God, at the right time…not that He was not there all along, patiently awaiting the timing of my heart to be just right, loving me anyway in the midst of my foolish blindness. Then steps in the One who cared so much about my heart, my soul, that He took me at my word when I asked Him to truly take my heart and make it His.
I came to a crushing wall and devastating low in my life.
I was falling apart from the inside-out. I could not even begin to describe or understand what was happening. And none of it was triggered by trauma of the past or present, no event or even seeming overly stressful situation to force this.
Nonetheless, there I was, day after day, praying with a hollowed emptiness as I felt myself falling in a tumble freely downward, and fading from myself, all in the same moment. This must have been a slow process of over two and a half years. Most of the time I could not feel God, and often could not even feel myself. I began to question if I even had any connection with God anymore. Was I still His child? I had believed in Him, sought Him, felt Him for so long…
Until one night, on a New Year’s Eve, when I sat on the sofa of the living room, alone, with all the lights in the apartment out, just sitting in the middle, head rested back, looking up at the ceiling. Around midnight, I glanced at the clock, and I began to feel an eery, cold, damp chill around me…as if I were in…some type of empty, dark water well dug into the ground. Incidentally, that familiar tumbling feeling came over me, for a time…but then a moment came where it stopped.
I felt as if I had actually stopped free-falling, and had gently hit the bottom of that cold, musty, damp, soily well, and I was now lying on my back. Stilled. Watching. Waiting.
Then I heard a faint whisper in my heart say, It’s only uphill from here.
From that moment, I began a very long, slow, seemingly laborious upward movement back to some normal sense of reality. I began to realize, as I used my 20/20 hindsight spectacles, that all along, God had been mining a major, extensive pride and control root system out of the soil of my heart.
I became aware of a sense of freedom, availability, room in my heart, and a lightness of load on my soul, that I never experienced before. And several months later, I even woke up to a beautiful sunlit room one morning with such a ringing peace breathing through the corridors of my heart, and I heard a very still, small voice in the wind of that breath gently say…
I would rather be clean and weak than dirty and strong, any day.
It was as if this was inviting me to claim it as my own thought, and more so, my heart’s banner, and even my life’s motto. As I slowly pondered it, it dawned on me that this was it…yes, this was it. This is what I have been looking for, seeking–er, rather, what has been seeking me out, hunting me down, tirelessly, day after day, lonely night after empty night, until I was slowed down, stilled enough, and emptyhanded enough to embrace this.
I finally began to realize that living a life for and with Jesus, and for the service of others, is not about the content of His hands–what He can do for me, how He can bless me or give me things, or allow me to feel His power as I help others–but it is much rather about the content of His heart–how I can focusly solely on falling in love with Him again and again, with genuine humility, and interested in Him just for Him and not what He can do for me, and even caring about how He feels, what He wants, what I can do for Him.
I stumbled through a new season of getting locked into a determined pursuit of Him daily, and as I grew into that, not only did the fullness of His presence seem to gently surround me once again, but I had such a beautified freedom and grace within, and thankfulness to just simply love Him, be loved by Him, smile at Him, and receive the sunlight of His smile across the face of my soul. At one point, we simply put an arm around each other, turned, and began to walk down a new road, knowing we were never going to look back.
And as I’ve journeyed from that point, I have found new layers of selfishness to unpeel. But I have learned how to break easy nowadays. I realized that I can willingly come to a place of surrender, every day. And as I place myself in His hands, He takes me up, blesses me, breaks me, gives me in abundant fashion…and gathers me up again. And because of Him, there is more than what was first placed in His hands to begin with.
I understand now that I can choose to be resistant, stubborn, prideful, wherein the breaking is that of a hardened, stone clay pot. Or I can be soft, warm, yielded bread in His hands, which gives an even opens itself in the hands of the Master.
Since I admittingly have a low tolerance for pain and torment in life, I prefer the latter.
It is in this place, this cycle of daily surrender, where sin and righteousness must be laid down on their respective altars, and I simply come as I am to Him, in humble love, that I truly encounter Him. And to my surprise, there is so much room for Him, I find that my selflessness now also makes me genuinely available to serve and give to others, to care for them in my kind acts, on a level that I have prior only witnessed from a distance from others.
This is home, my home…a place in the valley…where I no longer feel the anxiety and tension of the need to run out, but rather sit down. And in this place, where I have entered into His fellowship, I find still, peaceful waters.
Crossover at Eagles Point | A safe place of rest…