the story room

Friday, August 26, 2005

Following the pilgrim God

I moved back to campus on Sunday, and because I'm the only person in our suite all week, I've been taking my time unpacking. I've been putting a lot more effort into organization, and, because of a personal project I'm working on to increasingly simplify my life, I've also been sorting through my things, getting rid of the stuff I know I'll never use (or just don't need anymore).

Today I worked on sorting through and putting away all my clothes. I didn't expect for it to become a spiritual experience, but as I was deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I suddenly realized that what I was doing had to do with more than just clothes.

One of the main reasons why I've decided to simplify my life this year is because it's a necessary preparation for when I leave for seminary next year. I need to better learn thankfulness and contentment, and don't want to be so caught up in the stuff I have (or don't have) that I feel the weight of what I own and carry it as a burden.

As I sorted through my clothes today, I realized that every old t-shirt or pair of socks I threw away was, in a very literal way, lightening the load that I'll have to carry with me when I soon leave this place. But here's what got me: every single thing I threw away (and even more so everything I kept) was the source of some kind of emotional attachment for me. When I threw out old t-shirts, it was hard to convince myself that I wasn't throwing out the memories with them. And I was left having to trust that God would help me remember what I needed to remember, whether or not I held onto the clothes.

And there in my room, I found myself facing the God who bids me come and follow Him, and also found myself accutely aware of my need to trust Him. I hear His call to surrender everything I hold dear, knowing that He will give me a load to carry, but that it will be light -- maybe even lighter than I'd like it to be. But I trust that He will give me what I need, and that my loose grip on things I love too much will enable me to get up quickly, and follow Him on this long (and often uncertain) road with endurance and strength.

Because the truth of it is that as much as this world is indeed my home, I've never been truly settled, and probably won't be until Jesus finishes His work and makes everything right. So my task is not to sink my roots anywhere so deeply that I'll die if I ever come uprooted; my task is to follow my God wherever He tells me to go and to do anything He tells me to do. And like Abraham and his pilgrim children, though I can't see very far ahead, I will travel light and will set up camp anywhere He tells me to. What else can I do but follow this God, and trust that wherever I pitch my tent, I will be dwelling in my Father's house?

As I was thinking about all this tonight, I came across Psalm 84. The whole psalm grabbed me, especially these lines:

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the valley of Baca [the bitter valley], they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Abide With Me

I was flipping through the Psalter Hymnal again today (I can't help myself...I enjoy it so much!), and found a hymn that absolutely grabbed my attention. I've never sung it before (I've never even heard of it before), but I have a feeling this will stay with me for a long time.

I think the main reason why this captures me is because it speaks the words that I often try to say -- the words my heart often prays when I wake up in the middle of the night. And although I'm not nearly so eloquent, I often find myself praying with this same spirit. This song is a translation for my faint and often wordless whispers.

Maybe it will be a translation for yours, too.

[edit: I found all the verses, a little bit of background, and the music to this song on the Cyber Hymnal. It's just a cheesy midi, but the melody struck me anyway. You can go to it here:]

"Abide With Me"
-Henry Lyte

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitternes.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.