Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Cry for Help

I originally wrote the following over a decade ago.  Yesterday, listening to Amy Grant's song, "Better than a Hallelujah" brought it back to mind.  As I remembered how I'd discovered the truth of that song in the words of Psalm 50, I realized I wanted to share it here, as it was written then:

It was one of those nights where I realized just how long it'd been.... It wasn't guilt. No, it was an even more powerful emotion that drove me to my knees: the realization of just how much I missed Him. I missed having Him close enough that I could hear Him constantly direct my paths - to the point of avoiding traffic jams I didn't even know where there! I missed having Him close enough that I would talk to Him without a moment's thought. I remembered those times as so sweet... I just... missed Him. And I knew who had moved... but I had no idea how I'd moved so far. So I knelt on the floor, my eyes traveling over the stacks of books I'd made as I'd worked on cleaning up the bedroom earlier in the day. My eyes wandered to the Message version of the prophets - the one I'd been working my way through before I somehow let my life get to the point that the quiet times entirely disappeared. I wasn't even sure where I was in that book anymore. It just didn't "feel right" for tonight anyway. I glanced at the New Testament, then at the new copy of the Message version of the Books of Moses that I hadn't even opened yet. Finally I picked up the most ragged one there - the Old Testament Wisdom books. And, doing something I don't often do, I trusted God to direct me and just opened the book. Somewhere in the midst of those pages were the words I needed to hear, and He was going to have to guide me to them. It opened to Psalm 50....

The Psalm begins to paint a picture of a powerful God, blazing into view with fireworks announcing his arrival. But my heart longs for more than just acknowledgement of an all-powerful, magnificent God....

"He summons heaven and earth as a jury, 
he's taking his people to court."

Sigh. I wanted closeness, not an account of what all Israel did wrong.... I wanted arms wrapped around me, drawing me in, not a judgment....

"Are you listening, dear people? I'm getting ready to speak; 
Israel, I'm about ready to bring you to trial."

Okay. I know I deserve this. I've left Him behind, not entirely unlike Israel. But reading the account of how I messed up just really wasn't what I had in mind for tonight....

"I don't find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer."

Well, that's nice to know. Glad to know I haven't messed up everything. Actually, I'm surprised by the words. I seem to remember judgment against Israel's worship and we're talking trial here.... So somehow I sense a huge "but" coming... I turn the page....

"But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull, 
or more and more goats from your herds?"

Uh huh. I knew it.

"...If I get hungry, do you think I'd tell you? 
All creation and its bounty are mine." 

Sigh. Yeah, I know... but somehow I keep losing track of that. And as I read through this passage I'm reminded again of just how much effort I've put into doing the "stuff" for God while totally ignoring Him in the process. All the effort, the works, the "acts of worship..." doing so much for Him, and so little with Him. I know it's not that the things I'm doing are wrong ("I don't find fault with your acts of worship") but I've let an important part of it disappear. He doesn't need my "acts," He desires my presence. My eyes are blurred with the beginning of tears as I move on to the next section....

"Spread for me a banquet of praise, 
serve High God with a feast of kept promises,"

Sigh. The gathered tears now start to spill as I acknowledge that piece that's been missing. Personal Praise. It doesn't matter what I do for Him if I'm not doing it with Him. If I'm not taking that time for personal praise and to develop my relationship with Him then the "acts of worship" are incomplete. But it's been so long... I... sigh....

"And call for help when you're in trouble- 
I'll help you, and you'll honor me."

I sit in stunned surprise. As many times as I've read through the Psalms it's never hit me before. These two thoughts, "spread for me a banquet of praise" and "call for help," are NOT two thoughts. There is an "and" there, not a period! They are part of one sentence, one thought. Calling for help is part of the banquet of praise - the banquet of praise that He longs for, the banquet of praise that makes the "acts of worship" complete. A simple cry for help completes the shout of praise. A simple cry for help that demonstrates our faith, our trust, our dependence....

And I wonder at the love of a God whom in the midst of rejection by His people cries out "I don't need you to do anything for me. I just want you. Your call for help is my praise. That is the worship I desire."

And so, in awe of a God of so much love, my own (stubbornly independent) heart forms the simple prayer, "Help me to see when I'm in trouble, Father."

And I fall asleep in His arms.


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