This is the word. TRUST. The one that will order my unfolding self in this year--heart, soul, mind, strength. I chose it--or rather it chose me--at our church's Covenant Renewal Service, the first Sunday of January. I told God this word was my commitment, an offering of self as gift to Giver, releasing everything so that God's Magnificent Being would have room to do a work. And I joined my voice with about a thousand others making a solemn promise--tears leaking, voice breaking:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your hope and service. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be made also in heaven. Amen.I felt so strongly this word in my inner being. Especially when Habakkuk 2:1 kept coming across my attention--"Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it." The vision that accompanied the word was simple, a field of grain, sown by faith, springing forth as a harvest of joy. The image a message in itself, asking me to trust that what has been sown will come forth, not as barren but as fullness, harvest being merely a matter of time. . . . God's time.
January passed and I did not write the vision.
The mid-year break ended, and school opened into an ever deepening winter that does not seem to have an end. Skies are gray, bleak. My heart often feels the same way. In seasons past I wondered at the barrenness surrounding me, taking in the beauty of stripped landscapes, lost in wonder because I see nature's inner bounty revealed: surprising sturdiness hidden behind foliage is suddenly visible and vivid in the pale cold light. In past seasons I have been enchanted by the bare-boned beauty. This winter I simply feel bare. I look at empty branches, and just feel empty.
The emptiness around me matches an empty gnawing I feel within.
A month in I survey the bleakness of inward soul and outside landscape and remember that I never did write the vision. I never gave it life so that as my days got busy and ran together and I forgot about God I would have something to look to that could remind me of God's presence when I am blinded by my own poverty.
This Monday was my worst day. The poverty and emptiness felt overwhelming.
As the professional theologian I could just say that often when God wants to acquaint us with the Magnitude of Divine Majesty, it is preceded by episodes of witnessing our own smallness. God will allow us to feel the separation of Presence so that we can truly understand where we end and the Divine begins. Otherwise we confuse the two, we don't know how to recognize God's Bigness because we are still too big in our own eyes. In preparing our hearts to receive a Gift we cannot contain, God will clear out space, cutting us off from sensory consolations so that we can recognize God as the source of consolation. Our addiction to comfort must die so that we can truly know and see the Comforter.
And this is the spiritual season that accompanies the unusual deep freeze of our usually mild southern climate. My spiritual terrain matches what is happening outside my door.
Can TRUST sustain me when God really takes seriously the words I prayed on January 5th? Even though I was just a single face in large crowd of people, it wasn't a public moment for me; it was deeply personal. It was as penetrating a moment as if I had been kneeling at an empty altar without another soul around. My offering of myself was total, sending up a big "whatever" to the Heavens. "Whatever You want Lord, I'll be fine with. In fact, I'll want it too." I meant those words with everything. I just never anticipated what it would feel like if God took me at my word.
What if God chooses for me to be laid aside? empty? having nothing? I thought I knew what it was to have everything you believe to give you value loosed. Those comfortable outward signs of significance had been loosed long ago. But then God began loosing those internal verifications of my value as well. It had been a slow process, beginning even before Christmas. Growing ever so slightly as each day melted into another one. Gaining momentum. I woke up Monday with an ache lodged in my chest that was almost unbearable. Monday was a really bad day.
On Tuesday I got out the colored pencils, bringing the vision to life.
I look to my notes, jotted quickly beside the original sketch of my TRUST word:
What do I most need to trust?
I can trust God to work this out for my good.
God will reveal His plans for me at a good time.
I can trust God's timing in my life.
God is at work in my circumstances.
I am moving closer to understanding my destiny.
God has taken into account my unique gifts abilities and temperament.
God hears the yearning of my heart.
God is answering my heart with His plans.
God is preparing me for my place, just as He is preparing my place for me.
I am not lost.
My times are in His hands.
When I look at that colored pencil drawing with TRUST looking back at me, these are the words I hear whispered as the wind blows through the wheat.