Weekend before last, Mrs. E and I went to see Amazing Grace (with Lil'er E in tow, he slept the whole time). One quote from William Wilberforce, early in the movie, hit home personally to me. Wilberforce, who they say was a good singer in college, is worn down from his constant struggles and says that he has lost his voice and can no longer sing like he once did. This hit me, because I feel much the same way right now.
When Little Euphrony was born, I would sing to her constantly to sooth her - singing while I changed diapers, while I rocked her, while I walked with her, all of the time. And the songs I would sing were invariably those I knew best, songs of the church about Christ and God and what they have done for us. Now, with Lil'er E here, I find that the songs do not come. I try to will myself to sing, but the songs and their words seem to elude me. My voice is weak, faltering as I try to sing. Instead of confidence and passion, I find that there is hesitation in my voice. Where has this come from?
I think that I have found myself, much like Wilberforce, caught up so much in the doing of things, filling in the picture of life, that I am no longer amazed by the simple and individual brushstrokes. I have been active in so many things lately; things at work, traveling and trying to get out of travel, papers and projects; preparing for our new son, getting a new room ready for Lil'E so I can get the nursery ready for Lil'er E (still not done); the birth of my son, the exhaustion that comes with a new child, the viral infection I'm just getting over that the whole family has caught. My mind runs a thousand different paths, thinking about what I need to do, what I want to do, lingering on cherished thoughts of my wife, my daughter, my son. I find myself in retreat of serious thought too often; from little things like flippant answers to my wife's serious questions to larger issues like meaningful Bible study, I don't want to think, just do. And the more I do (not at once, as one keeping busy, but over time as this has built) the more shallow it all feels.
My personal Bible study is, honestly, nonexistent at the moment. Meaningful Bible study has, it seems, been gone for some months (looking at my journal reveals the truth in this more readily than my words can - it's nearly empty). We have been involved in a workbook series with out church small group, to which I have given little real attention. My sister-in-law attempted to engage the whole family in another study at the start of the year, one which Mrs. E and I had done before; never cracked the book, totally abandoned it and the commitment I made to at least try. (I'm sorry, Carrie, no excuses here. I truly appreciate what you were and are trying to do in drawing your family together in study.) Unsurprisingly, my personal prayer time has also been abysmal of late - how is it that I can be actively praying for my family, my new son and wife in the birth process, and yet still feel that I leave most of myself out of my conversation with God?
Is it any wonder that my voice seems gone? Is it any wonder that the songs of God are absent from my life, when I have made so much of my life only brushing with Jehovah, overlapping with rather than enveloped by Him?
The Sunday morning after we went to see Amazing Grace, I was reminded of two verses that only drove home even more that point.
19"The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep. 20"You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.These reminded me of how empty my worship has been, done by rote and not by heart, and that I am coming before Jehovah empty-handed. With hands empty, how can I offer anything, much less offer of myself sacrificially as David reminds us we must. I know that worship is our offering to God, but when the offering costs me nothing does it amount to more than empty words? When I started this blog, in my third post, I firmly stated "I want this blog to be about doing something for Christ. I may be the one writing it, but I want it to be uplifting and encouraging, perhaps thought provoking and, above all, beyond me. I am not starting a blog just to post new pictures of my daughter." And yet I feel that, more and more, this blog is more about me and less about Him.Ex 34:19-20 (NASB, emphasis added)
However, the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.2 Samuel 24:24 (NASB, emphasis added)
Where do I go from here? For me, right now, I see that I need several things to change in my life, in my heart, to bring me back to where I desire to be.
- Prayer. Real, honest, conversational, journaled and spontaneous, revealing prayer. This is about getting to know my old friend, my Savior and Creator, again and recapturing the awe and mystery of Him in my heart.
- Study. Opening the Word of God, to see where He speaks to me and guides me through scripture. For me, good study does not come through reading the good words of others (commentaries, workbooks, blog conversations) but in my purposeful devotion of time in His Words.
- Sing Praise. As a boxer does not enter the ring without first sparring many times, and as a runner does not take the track without first studying the course, I must prepare myself for this act of worship that I desire but seem to lack right now. If the words elude me, then I must study them. When the song is not only on my heart but also in my mind, then I believe confidence will fill my voice and, with these, the passion and joy of sing them anew.
- Renew my purpose and gifts in Christ. Several years ago, in a time of prayer, I felt God's revelation of where He had touched me and my life to primarily work for Him. These three things were in prayer, a passion for His Word, and in singing His praise. And yet, these are the exact areas where I have stumbled most. I must remember God's seed, planted in me, and the talents which He calls me to use for Him.
- Fasting. As soon as I am fully recovered from this bug that's worn me down, I will spend time fasting. Fasting is amazing in how it works to remove even more than the food you give up, stripping you down to your need for God above yourself. I need this, to return to Him with fasting and contrition.
12"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.Joel 2:12-13 (NASB)