The crisp 40 degree wind nipped at my nose and frightened my bare fingers. Ahhh…fresh air, time alone (!) and a winding wooded path ahead. My natural response? An old song that that comes effortlessly: “Oh God, you are my God. And I will ever praise you…” Oh don’t go imagining that any of that was in tune or in the right key, or even out loud. It wasn’t. But in my mind it was perfect.
Back in college I visited my boyfriend’s childhood home over an extended break. His mother….oh Mom Beers, how I love you…his mother loved on me in ways I didn’t think humanly possible. She didn’t lavish me with gifts, or a Martha Stewart reception, but she loved me with her whole heart, a heart wholly in love with Jesus.
I woke up the first morning in her home, in a place where Jesus truly had made a home, and my natural response? A song. I sang that same song, not quietly to myself, but out loud. I sang with all the heart I had and somehow even wished Mom Beers would hear me and come in, for I just knew she would sit down and sing with me (although I really didn’t even know her yet). “Oh God, you are my God. And I will ever praise You. I will seek you in the morning and I will learn to walk in your ways, and step by step you’ll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days.” (Please, just imagine a good ‘ol 80’s style Rich Mullens tune).
Now here I am, twenty years later, singing the same old gig, seeking the same good God, asking for the same thing. “Lord, teach me to walk in your ways. Lead me step by step. Yet again, I promise to follow you all of my days.”
Until I tore my ACL last May, walking was my time alone with God. Even when I was walking with one child in a stroller, another biking with training wheels, and two more defying death ahead of me on the sidewalk, I was alone with my thoughts and my God. Because of the surgery, my lifestyle shifted suddenly and so did my habits. Fresh-air time waned. My God conversations dwindled. My life, like my lungs longing for the crisp whip of the wind, felt stagnant. I need to take a walk…
“Where have you been?” I asked the Lord.
“Right here” He said. I knew that. I wanted to know why I felt so alone.
“Then why haven’t I heard you?” I asked.
“You haven’t been listening, My child.”
“Lord, I’m tired. I’m confused. I can hardly get around properly and there is so much to do. The children ask so much of me and right now I feel like an empty of cup of coffee at 6AM. I don’t want to care for any more needs. I just want a friend.” I let it all hang out. He listened.
“Like tonight. I just wanted to enjoy the Christmas Candlelight Service, but what did they need? A jacket on the floor (not to wear mind you, just to have out of her sister’s hands), a bulletin to draw on, a lap to sleep on, a shoulder to lean on (three of them – at the same time!), an ear to hear their complaints about it being too dark, and too cold, and this taking too long. And I haven’t even mentioned the head-butt right into my nose as I leaned over to counsel the sulking 10-yr old. I’m tired of giving. I have nothing left to give. I want to enjoy this precious family and instead I resent what little I have left at the end of the day.”
Crickets. (Remember – I was there listening for His voice, right?)
“Lord?” Had I walked too far off the path?
“Are you ready? You’re not going to like my answer.” He replied.
I wasn’t ready, but I couldn’t stand the thought of walking away from His voice. “Bring it on. I just need to hear from You.”
“Tracey, are you tired of responding to children who act just like you?”
The crickets were now having a family reunion.
“You come to me only when you need something. You only come to get something – get peace of mind, get time alone, get wisdom for life. You, like your children, come to meet your needs. When was the last time you came just to meet Me? Just to receive My love? Just to be my beloved? You don’t know Me yet, Tracey. You only know the law.”
It’s been a one-way street, this following Jesus all of my days. I think I’ve been giving Him my early mornings, my (sporadic) prayers, my time in His Word, but in reality, it’s Jesus who has been giving me all I ask for; giving me all I come to take; giving me all I think I “need”. I come to receive counsel and He counsels. I come seeking comfort and He soothes. I come to gain protection and He defends. He offers more than I can ask or imagine, and the only thing I offer is another unfulfilled need. No wonder I don’t really know Him yet.
“But I want to know you Jesus! I want to know what people mean when they sing, ‘What a friend I have in Jesus.’ But in all honesty I don’t really have a clue! You are God. You are my Savior and Redeemer…but are you really my Friend?”
This following Jesus is not like following a law. The law requires that I do all sorts of things “right” for Jesus. In fact, that’s what I do best. I do my devotionals. I do school with the children. I do the dishes, the laundry, and sometimes even diner. I can do all sorts of things, but I can’t do a relationship with Jesus.
Following Jesus is more like yearning after a dear friend. Jesus may have come to earth to fulfill the law, but He also came with arms full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Like a subject under the law, I considered Him the King whom I earn the right to stand before. But with arms full of Grace, He is more like the loving Father who, after nearly losing His beloved child to certain death, celebrates her very presence and delights in her company. The Law requires doing what needs to be done so I can receive what I think I deserve. Grace offers what I don’t deserve at all – a Savior, a Redeemer, and yes, even a Friend. If I abide by the law, my needs are met. If I abide by Grace, I meet Jesus in my needs.
What a difference it would make if I acted like the Christian I claim to be – a little Christ. Instead of doing so much and drowning in all my children’s needs, I may just be for my children what Christ is for me – a counselor, a defender, a protector, a friend.
Might I Pray for Us?
I want to learn to replace the law with Grace. I want to learn to follow You. Not follow another set of requirements that wear me out, but follow after You as one seeking the companionship of a dear friend. And yet, I shy away from relationship and seek You merely to fulfill another need. Help me to stop do-ing what I think will earn my right to stand in your presence, and help me be in relationship with You. Help me to see my relationships here on earth as a reflection of Your relationship with me – not a set of laws to follow in order to earn their affection, but rather an opportunity to be in relationship with my children. Be their counselor. Be their comforter. Be their defender. Be their friend.
I love you, Jesus. Forgive me for treating you like a tyrant king and grant me Grace to be-friend You in my weaknesses. Amen.
Words of Affirmation:
“We have almost forgotten that God is a Person…The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”
-A.W. Tozer: The Pursuit of God