“When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within me and around me.”
– Henri Nouwen
The smoke has cleared and I was feeling well enough to get out of the house and drive to one of my favourite quiet places, little Munroe Lake. This area suffered the ravages of wildfire a few years ago. I enjoy the contrast between old growth on one side of the lake and new growth on the other.
Circumstances in my life require letting go of things I used to be able to do without much planning or thought. Mourning is involved any time we let go of the old to make room for the new, but we can’t get a grasp on the future when our hands are desperately hanging on to strands of the past.
This new terrain is giving me a greater appreciation for stillness. It is reinforcing the importance of something the Lord has been teaching me for many years: trust.
How will things look in the next few months or years? I don’t know, but the words of an old song by Ira Stanphill play in my heart:
Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.
When this season of challenges began, many people found refuge in the promises of Psalm 91 that begins:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (NASB)
It is still one of my favourite psalms, but may I confess that sometimes I find it difficult to remain in that place near to the heart of God where His thoughts conquer my worries? Psalm 15 describes the characteristics of those who dwell in that place. The Passion version caught my attention.
Lord, who dares to dwell with you? Who presumes the privilege of being close to you, living next to you in your shining place of glory?
Who are those who daily dwell in the life of the Holy Spirit?
They are passionate and wholehearted, always sincere and always speaking the truth— for their hearts are trustworthy.
They refuse to slander or insult others; they’ll never listen to gossip or rumors, nor would they ever harm another with their words.
They will speak out passionately against evil and evil workers while commending the faithful ones who follow after the truth.
They make firm commitments and follow through, even at great cost.
They never crush others with exploitation or abuse and they would never be bought with a bribe against the innocent.
They will never be shaken; they will stand firm forever.
This raises questions for me. Are these traits the result of spending time with the Lord in the secret place or qualifications for entering and staying?
After pondering, I believe the answer is both. Knowing that I can never be good enough through my own efforts and that I am dependent on the righteousness of Christ to be my righteousness, what does God require of me?
God makes the first move. He extends the invitation. His grace empowers us to change. The more time we spend with him, the more we become like him, but transformation requires intent and cooperation.
I adore my grandchildren, but if they thoughtlessly track mud into my clean house I will tell them to go back out and leave their muddy boots on the step. Toddlers receive a gentler reminder and more assistance than teens. It is called respect (and maybe even the fear of Grandma). Learning to honour the things that matter to parents and grandparents and others in authority is something children need to learn in safe, loving relationships.
If we wish to dwell in the presence of the Holy One we need to respect the things that matter to Him. We enter with praise but also with clean hands and a pure heart. I wonder if sometimes the distance we feel from the Lord is because he is reminding us to leave the mud outside and to drop some ideas and attitudes that do not belong in his dwelling place.
The first one I need to leave outside is apathy and a lack of passion for holiness I have picked up from the doom and gloom and hopelessness that is so prevalent on the streets in the world.
The song that comes to mind is Refiner’s Fire. The chorus from Brian Doerkson’s song:
Refiner’s fire My heart’s one desire Is to be holy Set apart for You, Lord I choose to be holy Set apart for You, my Master Ready to do Your will