Monday, July 23, 2012

A Psalm and a Song

Okay...gonna go ahead and write up something I learned this last week. (Yeah...3 posts in one day may be excessive...but this isn't all I've done today...I promise :P. ) When I write this...I'm not trying to instruct, just share and maybe it will help me get my thoughts organized sometimes.
Anyways, for the last few weeks I've been feeling distanced from God. I've gone through times like this many times before. One time to the point that I questioned if Christ was really real or not. Every time I go through this kind of time, it's very scary. As a Christian, you want to not only know you are close to God, but you want to feel it too. Since we can't see Him in physical form.
This time, I didn't doubt God's existence at all. Instead, I doubted my salvation at first...then I didn't doubt that as much as start thinking that I must be doing something wrong and God has pushed me away from Him or I've pushed Him away from me.
I tried to think what I might be doing wrong. I examined my actions and over all way of living. I couldn't find anything that indicated that I was living in sin, though I know I sin...I didn't see anything in my life that was an ongoing sin that is the kind that distances you from Christ. I got very scared and confused. It wasn't a glaring issue like it has been was more of a nagging knowledge that something wasn't right in my life and I didn't know what. If I knew what...I could fix it and it would be taken care of.
But since I didn't know what...I gradually slipped back into my natural state of control freak. I remembered the verse "Seek and you will find." So I started seeking. I had read my Bible every day for a while now, but I started reading it three or four, sometimes five or six times a day. I memorized scripture, any time I began to wonder if something was God-honoring, I didn't even think through it before I'd stop whatever it was...a movie, something I was reading or doing etc. I can't say that I prayed more than I did before...but I prayed differently. I started "giving all the glory to God" more and more by actually saying it. I pretty much became a slave to working for my salvation.
All of that could be good...but for was empty. Because all I was doing was going through the motions. I started slipping into believing I could do something that would bring God closer to me. I thought that if I fought tooth and nail with Him "for" Him, I would grab Him and bring Him close enough for me to feel Him again. Yes...I should have sought...and when I started doing all that I did, I  may have been seeking. But as I continued, I see now that I began to think that I could earn God's love. That if I kept doing enough, saying enough and thinking enough...He would hear me and accept me back into His presence.
I was fighting every single day...I can't say I was fighting with God, but I was not stopping to listen to Him, wait on Him and rest in Him. A while ago I memorized Psalm 130 in which is the verse that says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning." I quoted that chapter in my mind a dozen or more times a day...and I still missed it. I "took comfort" in it and said, "yes...see? I'm waiting for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning." When the truth was...I was more like a watchman who tries to spin the world around to get morning to arrive sooner.
It was coming to a peak and starting to get more than I could bear when my sister and I house sat the Bed and Breakfast last weekend. Em was gone for the day and I was sitting on the sectional, writing and listening to the Christian music station on TV. I felt that pang of guilt as I was writing, so I put my computer aside and picked up my Bible and opened it to Psalms. I ended up flipping it open to Psalm 103 and I read it, then put it down and went back to my writing, not really thinking too much about what I had just read.
Only a few minutes (it may even have been a few seconds, I can't remember) a song by Casting Crowns came on TV. I love Casting Crowns...their one of my favorite groups and recognized the music, but it wasn't one I listened to much, so I looked up to see what the title was. It was their song called "East to West." I had heard it only once before and didn't like it. I found it depressing for some reason and didn't want to hear it. But then, as it was playing, I found myself relating to almost every single word in just the first verses. Then I heard the line in the song that says, "But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way." And that line hit home so hard that I started crying. I didn't lose it...just got choked up as I thought about that and how true it was for me right then. I was fighting so hard to please God and it just felt like I wasn't doing enough. I was terrified of making one wrong move...I was scared of making a single mistake because I thought God would leave me in the pit of loneliness without Him.
And then the chorus came on...
"Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other."

It's really a beautiful chorus that a lot of people can connect to, I think. Past mistakes coming back to haunt you...wanting to know how far the east IS from the west etc. And I related to it in those aspects...but then I remembered the Psalm that I had just read. And a verse that I had glided right over without a second thought...

"As far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
When I remembered that...and I honestly don't know how I remembered it because I didn't  even think about it when I read it, and made the connection that that was the Psalm I read just before the CC song came on...that's when I lost it and had to put my computer aside to have a good, solid, long cry. was then that I saw and realized...the truth is...we can't earn God's love and we won't. We won't ever, ever be able to earn His love or do anything to come into His favor and presence. And we don't have to. Because HE is the one who removes our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. Not us...we can't do one single thing...and again...we don't have to because He already did all that needs to be. FOR us.  
Then, the bridged played next. "I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light. I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night. I can't live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals. I'm not holding on to You, but You're holding on to me, You're holding on to me"
 The truth of the verse rang clearly in my mind as I continued making the connection between the Psalm and the song. 
By the time the last chorus rolled around I was completely, completely overwhelmed and couldn't move because I was so awestruck by how God was working and showing me what He was.
The final chorus says:
"Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
One scarred hand to the other
From one scarred hand to the other" 

A song that I used to not like at all and didn't want to hear, instantly became a key symbol in my life. God used it to show me that I don't have to work to earn His pleasure...because I can't. And I don't have to.
And then the next day at Church our pastor gave a message...not on the verse in Psalm 103...but he basically said what I needed to hear to just drive home the point that God was working and showing me the truth in this area.  
And I know that I still need to work for Christ and do the right things to honor and glorify Him. But that doesn't mean it's right to think that I am doing any of it to earn God's favor or love so that I can feel Him. Because, while feeling Him is great, we don't always have to have the warm fuzzies to know and believe that He is near and He is and has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.
So...I guess that went longer than I meant it to...just something that happened and I kinda wanted to write it down...for me to be able to look at in a somewhat organized fashion, than anything else.

Here's the song if you haven't heard it. I highly recommend it now. ;)