Years ago I sat in a jail cell. I was so very lost and hopeless and full of self-pity. I tried to envision my future. I went through many scenarios of what my life could be if I were only given another chance. I fantasized about making money, about setting a new course, about what my life could be if only I could escape my life of captivity. What I look back on and what pains my heart is that every scenario was centered on me and what I could do for me. It never really involved God except maybe as a source for power…what God could do for me. How selfish! Because I had much time to contemplate my future, I would try to predict how the story would end. At the conclusion of each scenario, I perceived it to be all vanity and selfishness. I realized that all my expectations and fantasies ended with darkness, ended with lack, ended with eventual death: spiritual death first and physical death to follow. In none of the dreams did my life have true fulfillment. Part of finding the true Light is facing darkness. Many of us go through life with a set of expectations, a laundry list of wants, needs, and desires. I came to the point where I was just tired: tired of me, tired of trying to find a happy ending, tired of creating within myself a future that centered on self.
The Lord in His wisdom granted to me, through His grace, a time in my life where I could take as much time as I could possibly want to gaze into the future. At first, as I stated previously, I gazed into pure darkness trying to find self-fulfillment. We too often are so busy in our lives that we hardly consider the notion of what the future really holds for us. We run a race in complete distraction from Truth; we fill our lives up with activity to avoid staring darkness in the face; we try also to fulfill our obligation to God by setting aside a place for Him. What I discovered in excruciating pain is that we do not fit God into our lives but rather we are to fit our lives into His. And what glorious joy this brings! But we cannot get to this place of peace and joy until we have exhausted our stare into vanity and self.
We try to put a band-aid on an open wound. We take painkillers of all shape and sizes (socially acceptable or not!) throughout our lives, but ignore the disease. I drowned out the calling of the Lord by numbing myself with money, sex, alcohol, and drugs. I never wanted to face the fact that God’s calling was to be the most real part of my life. I guess some people can float through life and never address the problem…ignorance is bliss! I however was never granted this disposition. The Lord has been calling out to me since I was a young man, but I ran away as fast as I could. This is why you will hear me make statements like, “Thank God I’m and addict”, or “Thank the Lord I’m an alcoholic”, or “Thank you Jesus for making me a restless soul!” You see, it was through my darkness and addiction that God exposed me. If we cannot reach this place of utter loneliness and pain, then God’s grace can pass right past us, and all we can do is wave at it as it passes us by…we can only wax philosophical about this grace in retrospect and lamentation. And there are many souls out there that share in this pain, and we try to find comfort in our collective misery. But our God is a personal God; He sets us apart at times in our lives to show us that misery does love company but joy is found one-on-one. My blessed Savior knew how to deal with me, and deal with me He did!
I remember the day I discovered Psalms 27. In all my searching for forgiveness and purpose, the God of the universe reached down to me and gave me the priceless gift of simplicity. If a person takes the time to “seek His face”, the Lord is faithful to deliver! If you wait upon the Lord, He keeps His word. But our lives are centered around the notion of a “quick-fix”; we want everything right now; we underestimate the power of process. In a lifetime of disappointments, and false hopes, and people breaking their promises, I found that there is only One that makes good on His word…and that One is our Lord. God put me in an adult “time-out” to allow me to search the depths of my soul. Once I encountered the living God, He told me that He would now take over and search the depths for me…what a relief! It was no longer my job to shape my future; it was no longer my quest to find true happiness, but His quest to show me happiness…my time of self-examination was over. I was slammed with the reality that I didn’t have to “drive the bus” any longer; that what I had been missing all these years was the willingness to let Him “do the driving”. Do you even know how liberating this is? It takes that old, tossed-around phrase of “Let go, and let God” come into the light of reality and Truth. From someone who tried to guide his own future and failed miserably, I can tell you there is no greater freedom and emotion in the world or in this life. To know that one sincere and pure desire is all it takes. To finally understand that what is required of us is truly only one heart-felt decision. I love simplicity! Thank you Christ Jesus for opening the door that leads to life, and freedom, and joy, and most of all…true love.
Please take the time to read Psalm 27 and then follow along with me.
I believe each Christian must find “their Psalm”; these precious and powerful searchlights of the divine are meant to reach the deepest parts of our spirit. In them are hope, victory, joy, and comfort. One must make them their own, make them personal, make them fit into that vast space that is a longing for love. Only our Lord can fill the void that is the human heart. His calling is personal. Many of us lose sight of what God originally intended: a personal relationship. Not an intellectual relationship, not a cloudy faith of just believing, but rather a deep-down, “hello, how are you?”, “here I am” kind of relationship. Many begin with the idea of God, but never take it to its natural conclusion: a REAL God. Even if we feel we are forgiven, even if we have assurance of God’s love, nothing takes the place of encountering and spending time with our Lord. It is His ultimate desire that you desire Him. It burns in His heart for you to know Him personally. He works overtime trying to get you to exercise your free-will to seek Him, and He rewards those that choose to seek Him with all their heart. So with that said, I am going to share with you my personalized version of Psalm 27. Please don’t get bothered with the fact that I have substituted some of the original text with my own words…in the Spirit of Truth I do this to show you just how amazing and personal our God really is…
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear? (Not even myself!)
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? (I don’t care anymore what others say or think)
When the addictions came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My insecurities and selfish desires,
They stumbled and fell. (Praise God!)
Though an army (of lusts and desires) may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though depression and anxiety may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple (the Holy Spirit inside of me)
For in my time of trouble (when my past tries to condemn me)
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock (my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus).
And now (through the atoning blood of Christ) my head shall be lifted up above my addictions and weaknesses all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices (my love, my will, my desire) of joy in His tabernacle (my heart);
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
(When life has kicked my butt) Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice (my tears, my whispered cries)!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me (love me, come and hold me).
(For this is my 100% commitment) When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart (all of me) said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me (I ask for forgiveness for not recognizing Your Presence);
Do not turn your servant away in anger (in the blood of Christ, I wash my sins);
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me (I take You at Your word!),
O God of my salvation.
When my father (who left me when I was a child) and my mother (who passed from cancer) forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me…thank you Jesus!
Teach me Your way (in wisdom and faith), O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path (my journey to know and love You more),
Because of my enemies (alcohol, drugs, depression, worry).
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries (selfishness and pride);
For false witnesses (self-doubt, the liar) have risen against me,
And such breathe out violence (condemnation, defeatism, hatred).
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living (my life!)
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart (my fellow addicts, alcoholics, and sinners);
Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
Another thing I realized is that just because you are not locked in a cell doesn’t mean that you are truly free. The real prison is the prison of self! Tearing the walls down that keep us from a loving relationship with our God are the real challenges in life. You can’t see them with your eyes, but you know they are there. True and pure repentance is knowing that the walls were built by you; that anything less than complete elimination of those walls will lead to misery. Regardless of your journey thus far, you must own your walls; you must confess that how you have reacted to life’s butt-kicking, however severe, is the core issue. The enemy will use others in our lives, but mostly uses our reactions to our situations as the primary stumbling blocks. We can sit in self-pity and blame others, but that NEVER does us any good. Resentments will quench any attempt to find true freedom. The walls are built brick by brick, day by day, and sin by sin. Every time a person visits a porn-site, every time you ignore someone in need, every time you choose yourself over others, every day you go without spending time with God in prayer, every time you spend frivolously on yourself at the mall, every time you choose the finite over the infinite you place another brick in the wall that separates you from God’s loving arms. He will not judge you for the sin, because Christ paid the price for our sins, but He still is hurt by our choosing something over Him. Remember, you build the wall…not Him! That is a profound truth that many Christians need to realize. God isn’t calling believers out of the world; He is calling disciples! Even the demons and Satan believe in Jesus, but they don’t seek a relationship with Him. Once you have warmed your heart at His fire, you will desire nothing else…everything else in life is a cheap and unfulfilling substitute. Thank God that when we falter, He is quick to forgive! But to truly understand the Christian walk, we must know that we are forgiven as we forgive others. We can know God’s love by loving others. Love and forgiveness are the marks of a Christian walking in victory. However, we cannot forgive and love by ourselves! We must FIRST come to our Lord and be empowered by His Holy Spirit to walk in victory…That is why the ONE THING is so very important. Too many of us get the order wrong; we try by ourselves to love, and to forgive, and to walk in His favor. That, my friend is impossible! But the solution is so ridiculously simple…but we want to complicate it! Remember in the Psalm we just shared together? ONE THING…just one. Jesus tells us ONE THING as well: “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” and the rest is added by Him! By the world’s standards, a Christian life looks impossible and foolish, but they don’t understand the profound and acute power of love we have in Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. If God is for us, then who can be against us?
Start every day as a free person; begin each day in victory; when you awake in the morning just take the time (a precious sacrifice to God) to pray and just talk to the One who really cares for you. And at the end of the day, take the time to say “Goodnight…I love You…thank You”. Then you can rest assured in a peace that surpasses all understanding, that your Lord is faithful to guide your steps and love on you all the day and all the night through. He will quicken you to conquer sin, He will create in you the desire for more of Him, you will begin to literally crave His word, and He will steep your heart in love for others…He does all the “heavy lifting” if you will live by this ONE THING.
Praise our Father and our Savior and His Holy Spirit for caring for us! FREEDOM!!!!!!
Your loving brother in Christ,