It’s late here, I’ve just got in from a day of study, work and church, and I’m honestly feeling pretty tired…
But before I sleep, I want to take a few moments to construct this blog post.
It might not be particularly long.
It might not be particularly profound.
But it is going to share the prayer of my heart this week.
On Thursday morning I was listening to some worship in the prayer room at IHOP-KC, when Laura Park started to sing this song. It’s actually by Audrey Assad, but the lyrics are stunningly beautiful.
From the love of my own comfort,
From the fear of having nothing,
From a life of worldly passions,
Deliver me O God.
From the need to be understood,
From the need to be accepted,
From the fear of being lonely,
Deliver me O God.
From the fear of serving others,
From the fear of death and trial,
From the fear of humility,
Deliver of me O God.
And I shall not want,
No I shall not want,
When I taste Your goodness,
I shall not want.
But, if I had to put money on it (which obviously I won’t, because I’m a Christian of the non-gambling variety), I would say that this simply beautiful prayer-song, which these last few days has become the simply-beautiful-prayer-song of my heart, is actually inspired by the words written by Mother Teresa many years previously.
Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of being suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace that I may desire it.
That others may be more esteemed than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen, and I set aside,
That others may be praised, and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than me, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
I guess if you’re anything like me (which I’m guessing you may be just a little), these words provide different challenges at different times.
Some days they’re inspiring… Others they’re more like haunting.
Some days I’m scared of loneliness.
Some days I’m scared of being forgotten.
Some days I’m scared of losing worldly wealth.
Or the praise of man.
Some days I’m scared that God’s forgiveness isn’t big enough.
That His restoration isn’t complete enough.
That His provision and His promises just aren’t enough.
Sometimes I’m scared that I’m just not enough.
That I’ll never be enough.
And most often I’m proud. And second often I’m confused. And the rest of the time I don’t have it all sorted out. And half the time I read the words of this prayer and feel like a hypocrite.
And in my weakness, but His strength, I’m learning that in the process of all this… It’s okay.
Which is why tonight, in the lateness and the tiredness and even the at-times-heaviness, I choose to run to God and not away from Him.
I choose Him.
I choose to pray these words and sing this simple heart-song out before Him.
Because I know that even in my weakness. In my sin and in my desire for all the wrong things. In my fear. In all of this stuff that I wrestle with.
His grace is still the ocean that I love.
He is the God who I love.
It is He whose kindness leads me to repentance.
It is He who reached for me even when I was a sinner in pursuit of all the wrong things.
It is He who I love.
And it is He who loves me.
Even when I’m a messy-paradox-of-struggle-and-victory-and-growth-and-change.
I am reminded of a picture God gave me earlier this year. And so I will finish this blog with a reminder of those words. And I picture of the beautiful lunch my friend surprised me with on a particularly busy day this week.
So, I was in church this morning, in the stillness of it all, praying some verses from Hosea 2 and using them as a meditation. And I hit verse 15.
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
Ok. This was a beautiful meditation this morning.
Hear me out…
That God’s restoration would make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
If you read that in your Bible the word Achor has a little footnote next to it that says it means, ‘trouble’. Which is really proved right if you remember the time *I think* we are first introduced to the Valley of Achor in the Bible.
Back in Joshua 7.
Remember that story?
Israel have just seen the walls of Jericho fall and are on this pretty big faith-high of God doing remarkable things and going before them into the promised land. And God had given them a really simple instruction: Don’t take the treasure of Jericho. Don’t covet what you see there. Be faithful to me.
So they come to the town of Ai. Which is tiny compared to Jericho. And they think this next bit will be pretty easy.
Until they are horribly beaten and quickly resort to their default (and our default) position of being absolutely terrified about absolutely everything and totally doubting God.
Joshua comes before God to pray about what-in-the-world-is-going-on and God reveals that what’s actually going on is that the people haven’t kept the one thing He asked of them. More specifically, He reveals that a guy called Achan hasn’t done the one thing that was asked of him. He instead coveted the treasure of Jericho, took it, and hid it under his tent.
The end story isn’t good for Achan. He dies for his sin. And the valley he dies in is called…
The Valley of Achor.
Yep. Seems like serious-trouble all right.
Which actually changes the whole way I read that verse in Hosea. Completely.
And it fills me with this abounding hope and joy that I can’t even explain.
Because He will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
That means some incredibly life-and-eternity-changing truth. That the place of our secret sin, and our selfish desire and our inability to pay the penalty for our own wrongdoings without being completely destroyed, will instead be transformed into this incredible entrance point of hope. Because although we may all be more-than-a-little-bit-like Achan, Jesus has come to bring Light to our darkness, and forgiveness to our sinfulness, and has faced the death that we rightly deserved. In our place. In my place.
He died in the Valley of Achor so that it could be a doorway of hope for me. And for you. And for us.
So, this was my meditation this morning in prayer.
And I was praying this Hosea passage over some people I know. I spent the day hanging out with some brimming-with-potential-yet-incredibly-broken young people at a Free School here yesterday and their stories were weighing heavy on my heart. Because they need a doorway of hope that only Jesus can bring.
But the thing is, when you really dwell on the Word, is that your heart begins to really cry out, ‘Lord, what does this mean? Make it real for me!’
And as I was praying, this was my question of God this morning: ‘Papa, what does this look like for me? What is the doorway of hope like? What does this look like?’
So I prayed my many, many questions, and I heard God speak to me real clearly. This is pretty funny. And pretty God.
‘Peta, will you stop speaking so you can actually listen.’
Yep. So I did. I was quiet. I for once didn’t fight Him and gave up my incessant need to ramble in the Presence of Holy Spirit.
And immediately I saw this picture outplay.
I was with Jesus. He was leading me into and through this vast room. It was a long chamber, like those old school treasure halls you see in movies, and it was overflowing with gold and silver and jewels. There were shelves and shelves of various treasure and the light was so bright because of the glow from the metal and stones.
But Jesus was moving through the chamber. Fast. Through one part of the hall. Into another. And another. Past this immeasurable amount of wealth and beauty stacked from floor to ceilings.
I followed Him in silence, trying to take it all in.
Eventually, after a long time, we got to the very back of the hall. And on the floor there was a wooden trapdoor. It looked pretty out of place considering the wealth that surrounded us.
Jesus reached down and opened the trapdoor and there were these few simple wooden stairs leading down into a very basically decorated room with a thin carpet and really small dimensions.
He opened his hand to gesture me down the stairs, and as I climbed down into the room I could see that there was a small girl kneeling in the middle of the space. And the space was filled with a light, but I couldn’t see where it came from. The girl was praying and weeping, although not in despair, but in earnest love for God, and in her hands she held a small cup filled with wine.
And as she cried her tears fell into the cup she held. And I knew that this represented her desire to be crucified with Christ.
I stood there taking in the scene, because it was breathtaking in it’s beauty, and as I stood there Jesus walked past me into the room and knelt down so He was facing the girl. He placed His hands over her own, holding both them and the cup, and as He did He simply said, ‘This. This is the treasure my heart seeks.’
It was such a beautiful picture.
So what’s the doorway of hope like?
Well, I guess I think it goes back to learning how to pray. Because hope is found in so many ways, but often it’s the small-sometimes-overlooked door at the very back of the room that it takes an age to get to. The secret place of prayer which is too-easily-forgotten, that leads me down into the place where I can kneel in abandoned prayer and be taught and held by Jesus and hear Him say those words.
This. This is the treasure my heart seeks.
Which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
And pretty challenging when I stop speaking long enough to listen.