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Monday, December 24, 2018

12-25-2016 Seclusion

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.    

Psalm 51:15-17 
Seclusion: I’ve traveled to a location now where life is as quiet in its unfolding as I have ever known it to be. It is a place I have been to before and one that helps refresh my spirit. I know it to be a wonderful, but dangerous place. In the quiet of the empty folds of the world can hide untested thoughts. In the solitude of my own reckoning, there is no guarantee of wise counsel. In the waiting for right answers, there may be impatience and temptation to accept lesser solutions. Too much seclusion? Oh yes, that is always a possibility and a rocky place indeed, for there lies the barren waste of feared abandonment.

Yet, have I ever truly been alone? Has anyone? Is a single tree on the plains not rooted to a forest of nourishment beneath? Does the lone path of invention forbid the idea of your spiritual wind being whispered into my heart?

When scripture says that you knew me before I knew myself, before I could even fathom the concept of completeness and compare it to the unlit places where rebellion against your sovereignty first percolated; You had mastered them both. You are in the tempest and in the flame; in the dance of brook-waters and the shimmer of starlight. Your lessons and your presence may take any form at any time, if only I will watch, and listen for them. So why do I close my eyes and shut my ears to your song?

In this era, each of us it seems, fancy ourselves evangelists of our own invention. I’m in no way different. In my isolation, I secretly hunger for individual recognition, so I make observations about life and declare them loudly, casting them to the wind (or windows, or the internet and social media) in hopes that someone else will agree. If others do not agree, at least I’ve caught some attention and therefore am relevant.

But Lord, is relevance mine to own? Just because I can create buzz, just because I have a thought, does that make my manufactured fact a truth? Maybe, instead of first seeking the approval of others, I should seek yours? Is that the missing bridge between my isolation and a promised land of real fellowship?

Nearly 2500 years ago, a last humble prophet spoke of your good news―your preparation for a great change in the state of the spiritual and physical worlds: Then came a void. It would be 500 silent years before a new voice shook the world. That voice spoke a very old message in a very new way. As with any new approach, it had to be metered out slowly in order to be ingested by a population resistant to change. So you offered small bites for them, for us, for me, to take in: The cry of an infant born into meager circumstances; the eagerness of a young boy to understand and challenge the thinking of the day; the servitude and lessons of a rabbi who walked in purity; the offering of a sacrifice that led to perfect redemption. This patient progression was not the norm then, just as it is not the norm now.

In this age, I’m too eager to stake claim to my opinions prior to understanding their overarching impact. I want to reinvent, fitting the world to the order of my needs rather than admitting perhaps that, as inconvenient and uncomfortable as it may appear, yours is the more encompassing plan.

Jesus―giver of light, hope, and grace―will you teach me more of patient humility and submission? Will you help me distinguish the Truth of your message in comparison to the fleeting philosophies offered by a selfish creation? I want less than to conquer territory for my own purpose and desire; I seek more alertness of and responding to your voice. Help me to better hear the pleas of the neglected ones; those ignored by we who clang our drums and symbols to be heard. I long to be nourished by your living waters―that might even be found in the silent, embarrassed tears of those who are too proud or too hopeless to request relationship. I ask to serve as you would desire, not as I would self-imagine the need.

What a blessed time is this, full of obvious and raucous clamoring, when a light approaching from the horizon of my solitude can still shine into my soul, if I will only turn to deeply consider its herald:

“Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness.
Make a level highway in the desert for our God.”

Thank you for this quiet moment that explodes with words of peace and your wish for goodwill and relationship with mankind. May we each discover in the solitude of our individual encounter with you; the beauty of your love. And may our hearts be bowed before you in humble realization, that before we ever considered a thought of service for ourselves, or making an offering of our “better ways” to improve others; you first served us by the design of your creation and in your sacrificial offering of salvation for our proud souls.

Praying for a blessed Christmas of solitude, shalom and preparation for all,

Mark C.

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