Two letters from you have been sitting unanswered. And I am now, at last, reclining in the richness of striving to honor God, refining the biblical theology I believe, alongside of another God-loving and -fearing woman. What joy!
I seem to remember that you mentioned a warm fire—send it over? My summer here feels brisk, and I could use it. I previously thought that air conditioning holds a less chilling quality of cold than when winter’s single digits are biting in from the outside. It probably does, but today I am not as certain; I’m sitting on the coolest level of our townhouse—the ground level of three slender floors stacked on top of each other. On the top level, my toddler is napping, happily for us both, in comfort. But even after somewhat successful airflow balancing measures involving our vents, I’m a cube.
A couple of mornings recently I have taken twin sunrise bike rides to a neighborhood lake, sat at the pier, peered over a patch of world just before all the heat comes. But enough is already swelling the air to revive me for the day.
During both rides, my mind has been busy almost the entire trip with thought-residue from the previous days, and hopes of being much better with this life—like with knowing God in Scripture, filling the “already read” side of my reading list, the ever-growing skill of engaging a two-year-old mind and heart, with the deepening of friendships, with prayer and Scripture memory, with coursework and studying aims. These are included in my mental state every day: What can I learn from yesterday that I could have done with more purity, wisdom, diligence, love, or truth? What can I learn or use today, considering all that’s been given to me? Then a duck flew by, and I heard a noise I could not quite place in that outside, unregulated space.
And I think of the ways my life is set to me, like the temperature in my toddler’s room. My home is set to me—not to mention my phone, my web, and much more. How much of “pressing on” and “striving for what’s ahead” involves pushing beyond that pervasive temptation to self-absorption?
In the many moments when—in various ways—the temperature is not set to me, I have a prime and joyous opportunity to be cleansed of any wasteful residue and wash all of my wishes over with the gleamingly believing words of, yes as you wrote, “Thy will be done.” And with “Thy will is mine too,” alongside “Thy great grace I have joyously received,” through which, “in Thy love I freely give away.” My two morning questions sit beneath Him.
How much of true striving is clinging to the truth that the world lies--He is Lord, not me? When all is made right in terms of His Lordship, no corner of the world will be unregulated, and all will be set and geared toward Him in perfection. “To deny His Lordship is the fundamental sin of the soul—the seat of our thoughts, our emotions, our will, our self-consciousness. […] It is in our souls that we determine who or what will have the mastery in our lives,” wrote David J. Hesselgrave and Ronald P. Hesselgrave in What in the World Has Gotten into the Church?
We are intended for Him to be our Lord, and as we previously hinted at in past letters, His Lordship is directly correspondent to our view of God’s Word. We’re made up of the stuff we believe, so I see simple profundity in the statement from Peter Lillback, “When you read the Scriptures, you are reading the very essence of your being…the Word of God is the DNA of your spiritual life.” Our being and DNA are already right there for us to take up—to study and to know, to study and assume as the informers of our circumstances.
Perfectly searching myself for an inward, subjective sense of God—if that were to be possible—likely reaches an anti-climactic end: “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad” (Psalm 119:96). As I understand it, if I ask—Am I praying correctly?—the answer cannot rest on feeling God as if that is the success, but upon a set belief in the Word of God. The primary question, then, cannot be—What level am I reaching of experience in intimacy of God?—but instead—Do I believe His Word? (And in order to believe it, I must know it.)
It’s not the belief, but what true belief beholds I am getting at. We often speak in Christian circles about preaching to ourselves—at some point, preaching to ourselves is not enough and we must undertake to believe the message and set ourselves on that good word. In believing, we take up in our souls which of the warring streams in our minds we hold to be true. We trust it and assume it as ours.
Then, it’s as if believing creates the prayer. A believing prayer isn’t one that musters enough sense of belief. But it has looked to the One, and His Word, who is utmost to be believed, truth compelling a change that can be stayed because truth stays. Even in “I believe, help my unbelief,” I understand tones of from the father crying out to his Lord, “I believe enough to know that You are the only One I can submit to, seek, and trust to in order to give You more of what you do deserve as Lord, my whole trust.”
Now speaking in a general sense of notions that wind around, what more predictive words than these written in 1981 by Hesselgrave and Hesselgrave in the same book mentioned above, “Must we not rethink a one-sided, feelings-oriented, experience-based Christianity that downgrades doctrine and neglects the Bible?” How seemingly subtly I have previously placed the fulcrum of my Christian life upon my experience of God rather than upon the truthfulness of His Word.
The Word abides with me forever through the guarantee of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Jn. 16:13) and increasingly too in this life through my choices (Col. 3:16; Ps. 119:11). Now, how gracious that a rightfully singeing, refining fire toward self also warms me with peaceful confidence—morning, evening, and in-between—that He is my Lord and I am made right and well in relation to Him! Glory be to our God.
And all of His warmth be with you.
P.S. I have failed to tell you until now even in private correspondence, but yes, the diamond was indeed recovered and my ring finger appears married once again. Phew.