Friday, January 16, 2009

The Singer has a Song

My lips ache, longing to be graced once again by melody, by a song, like the ones I used to sing so long ago. I remember. I remember those days of reckless joy when I felt darkness, hunger, and thirst had no place in my world. Now they feel so near. I know who I am. I am a singer. My silent lips would not ache so if that were not the case, but what is a singer to do when she has abandoned so much, when she has given away so many pieces of herself that she no longer has a song? Who is a singer without a song? Still… I know, and I feel led.

I begin to walk. The landscape is not at all what I expect. My vineyards and orchards shrivel as I leave them behind. The strong and towering mountains morph into mounds of sand, which the wind begins to swirl around me, a heart-wrenching replacement for the strings of melody that encircled me not so long ago. Or perhaps it was long ago. I’ve lost all concept of time. It’s hot. My mouth is dry. I continue walking even though I can feel the strength, the joy, the music as they leave my body. Evaporating. Just like the water that I so long for. I must be going the wrong way, but why can’t I stop? What is this pull that is leading me straight into the desert? I don’t want to go there!

The sun beats down upon me. The gold I wear begins to burn my skin. I tear it from my neck and toss it into the sand like the worthless piece of trash that it is, a trophy symbolizing not what I gained, but everything I gave away. The gold flickers under the sun’s rays, and, for a moment, I feel I am looking at myself. Should I follow? Should I throw myself into the sand, worthless piece of trash that I am? I am going to die here anyway. I cannot survive in this place, and besides which, I deserve death. Why should I continue walking?

Suddenly, I hear something, something like the wind, but so distinct. “No!” A voice? Both my feet and my heart stop. Fear washes over my body like an arctic chill, painful, not refreshing. “Come.” The word is spoken gently, but with great authority. I begin to shake. I long more than ever to run, to dive into the sand, to hide myself. The burden of my sin and my past weighs heavier on me than it ever has before. Pictures flash before me, pictures far brighter than the blazing sun, pictures of pride, idolatry, unbelief, rebellion, pictures of a slow and painful death, like the one I deserve. “Come.” He says again. Despite the deep longings to turn and run, I move forward. One foot in front of the other. Why haven’t I turned around? Why can’t I run? Why am I so drawn to this desert… to my death? “Come.” He says it again, and again, and again. Each time it sounds sweeter, more familiar, almost like a lover, but so pure. I know this voice!

Despite my weakness, my feet begin to fly. No, I didn’t turn around, but I am running. I can’t help myself. I must get to Him, to the One who is speaking to me, for I know I know Him. And so I run. “Come.” I keep running. “Come.” My heart is beating frantically now. The wind picks up, stirring the dust about me. “Come.” The voice seems nearer, but my labored breathing and beating heart almost drown it out. “Come!” The wind. My heart. My breathing. My feet pounding. Sand, coarse against my skin. Then… silence.

My breathing slows. My heart falls back into a gentle rhythm. Then I hear the voice once more, this time speaking softly, tenderly, straight to my heart. “Remember Me.” He says it pleadingly, and I know He is not pleading for His own sake, but for mine. “Forget your sins. Forget your former life. Only remember Me. Only remember the day that I taught you to sing. Only remember My love!” Everything in me begins to stir at once. When I feel I can contain it no longer, I open my mouth, and from my parched lips, song burst forth! They are not intricate melodies. They would probably never find a place on the world’s stage, but they are beautiful nonetheless, for they are His. I am His. Soon I find myself laughing, a laughter of the purest kind, for here I stand in the middle of the desert, hungry, thirsty, torn, broken, weak. I was a singer without a song, hopeless, and He led me here, and suddenly, the singer has a song!

“I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers… I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but Me she forgot… Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her to the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (Achor means trouble) a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” ~Hosea 2:12-15

Oh how graciously and mercifully God responds to our rebellion! Yes, He leads us to the desert, but not as punishment, rather as a chance to speak to us in His love. It is in the desert that we find our songs!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Father, I Said

Do you know me? Do you love me? I find that I ask these questions a lot. Not out loud, of course, but they do ring in my heart quite often. I long to be truly known and still truly loved. I just think that would be so wonderfully freeing and fulfilling. To know that nothing about you is hidden, to not have to worry and check constantly to ensure that the dark corners of your heart are still covered. To know that you are loved for the person you are, not the person you work so hard to create. Freeing and fulfilling and real. It's strange how in the presence of God I find just that, and yet so many times I want to run from it. God knows everything about me; He created my innermost being and hemmed me in behind and before. He knows me better than I know myself. I can't hide anything from Him. The light of His countenance exposes everything (scary though, isn't it?). Still, He tells me He loves me. I'm looking at Psalm 136. "Give thanks to the God of gods; His love endures forever... To Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by His understanding made the Heavens, His love endures forever!" Wow. Truly unconditional love. That is so beyond anything I can fathom... and that too scares me. How am I to accept that kind of love? So I find myself trying to get away. I fall to my knees and weep. I refuse to lift my eyes, because I know I'll see Him and He'll know and He'll love and I don't think I can handle that. I want that, but I don't think I can handle it.

The beautiful thing is that God is relentless. He sees me cowering, and He reaches down and gently lifts my chin until our eyes meet. And suddenly all my fears subside and all that's left is that longing, the one that brought me here in the first place. But even that doesn't last long because as He takes me into His arms, I know that it's been fulfilled. Now, I'd be a liar if I said I feel that all the time. Even with this beautiful picture, I still find myself wanting to run from God. It's hard for me to go to Him with everything, but that's okay. Really. What I feel, what I don't understand, what I struggle and battle to accept... none of that changes the fact that God does truly know me and truly love me... and I am His. And you know, every day of my life I see my fear diminish and my acceptance increase as He and I journey together. Oh what joy!

Father, I Said

“Father,” I said,
“Do You know me?”
“Father,” I said,
“Do You love me?”
“Father,” I said,
As I knelt and I wept
And all of my words quickly fled.

“My child,” He said,
“I know you
Even more than you, yourself do.”
“My child,” He said,
“How I love you!”
And somehow His words rang so true.

Yet I turned my eyes to the ground,
For there in His presence I found
A love so beyond comprehension
It filled me with fear, apprehension.
For I felt the full weight of my sin,
Yet He gently lifted my chin.
I looked in His eyes
And He looked in mine
And I knew I’d no reason to hide.

“Father,” I said
As He held me,
“I admit that I don’t understand.
My sin is exposed,
Insufficiencies known
Yet You relentlessly call me Your own.
I don’t understand,
Yet I am.”

Stephanie M. Frakes
(January 10, 2009)