How often do we come to quiet places in our days and contemplate who we are and how we live before our God Almighty? This desert place—this still place—where only gentle breeze and intermittent buzz of small insects is heard—this place has stripped me down to essentials. Who am I? And who is the I AM?
I am a beloved creation of God, given free will to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I am a creature called to love all others as myself. And yet, these two essentials I do not do.
I do not love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength and I do not love all others as myself. I wander away from loving God and others, repeatedly seeking Self. And in the process of wandering away from loving God and others, I lose myself. My true self, created in God’s image—to love as He loves, withers. My false Self—all I try to create on my own, tangles and strangles true life right out of me.
Why? Why do I keep wandering off? Why do I keep seeking “self-sins” as A.W. Tozer calls them:
. . . self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.
I wander off because my heart is prone to wandering. And yet . . .
God knows all about us and our wanderings. We have wandered into desert places, looking for life and finding the opposite. Instead of filling, we find depletion. Instead of peace, we find agitation. Instead of love, we find brokenness.
In our self-sins, we cannot find what our deepest selves long for—what the deepest places of our souls need to survive and thrive. We cannot live alone in the wilderness. We cannot live—truly live—apart from God. His is our True Life. All else is false—phony, empty substitutes we are duped into believing can satisfy.
No approval and adoration of others, no possession, no achievement, no certain look—no thing can satisfy the deepest longing of human hearts because we were created by God, for God, to be filled with God. Deny this truth, we can—to our own detriment. Truth remains fixed. We were made for God and, as Augustine says so succinctly:
Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.
Rest. Peace. Freedom from inner conflict. Filled with love. Isn’t this what we most desire? To merge with all that is good? To be heart and soul saturated so that no inner emptiness remains?
And yet, I struggle. Why? Because Self is strong. In fact, Self is so strong I cannot subdue it by myself! I cry like Paul in Romans 7:
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
And Paul’s cry is mine on my best days. On my worst days, I don’t even delight in God’s law. To be perfectly honest, there are times when I delight more in my own ways than God’s. I know His ways and yet I choose not to follow. I choose to let Self reign by conducting a spiritual coup. As if I can change reality! God is never moved! The throne is never my place. Only when He humbles me can I see truth. And this is truth—I never, ever belong on the throne of my life. Yet, I think I do.
We are no different from the ancients. Our Adamic egos inflate to the point where our hearts revolt. And then the hiding begins. We know what we’ve done. We know we’re running away from the presence of the living God. We know what we deserve. So we hide. And yet . . .
God pursues. God woos because He loves. True Love may let us wander and wallow—for a life-time if needed, but True Love never leaves. WE leave. WE hide. WE reject. WE dismiss all whispered holy pleading. “Come back to Life! Come back to Me!” we hear Him say in the distant recess of our being.
But we don’t want life His way. We want life our way, which is no life at all. It’s bondage, plain and simple. Anything we call life, apart from our Creator and His way, is bondage—slavery—death at some level, in some form.
No matter. No matter how far we’ve wandered, no matter how rebellious we’ve been—God’s love for us never waivers. God’s provision never changes. Jesus provided Himself to bring us back from the death we thought was life. God is the constant. We are the variable. He waits as He woos. He wants us to come back to Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He wants us to have what we want. We want it all. He IS our ALL. For in Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
But we cannot come back to Him in our own strength. All we can do is humble ourselves, take our proper place before the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, and do as Augustine instructs:
Cast yourself upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon him without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills.
Laying on a table, just two days ago, I was in a sorry state. I didn’t care what the nurses and doctor did to me as long as they brought me back to life. Into their hands I committed myself. And this depleted and sick body was watered and refreshed and put on her feet once again to walk strong.
When we lay on the stretchers of life—depleted, worn, and fearful—we’re ready. When we’re ready to accept the help of God, He is faithful. He is loving. He is waiting—always waiting—for us to come back.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus implores.
Every day, every moment, we are faced with a crossroads choice. Which way will we go? Toward Self or toward God. There is no—other—choice.
This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for yours souls.” Isaiah 6:16
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10
Humility is the trailhead of the path leading back to True Life for those ready to be raised from the dead.