Thursday, March 15, 2007

Confessional: Finding My Voice

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.
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)
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.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
What I ask from you is your prayer for me, for renewal, and for passion to be mated again with the intellectual pursuit of God in my life. I would also ask for suggestions in where to restart my studies. This is where I always seem to struggle in starting, deciding what to start with. Is there a verse, chapter, or book in the Bible that has captivated you? Suggest a few of these and I will start into them. I'm going to work on posting something weekly about the passages I am working through, both for myself and for whoever reads this.


euphrony said...

I talked about this with Mrs. E a day or two after we saw the movie. The inclusion of this in my blog is, partially, trying to do what I said about journaling better. This is as much a prayer and confessional to God as it is an expression to man. Much of my journaling will be in my private journals, but this I thought was appropriate here. Trying to balance private journals with public journals has been challenging for me; perhaps some equilibrium came be found.

Anonymous said...

I will add you to my prayer list. Try to cut yourself a little slack. The first few months of a beautiful & cherished new addition to the family thrust you into survival mode. There is a euphoria in the first week or so, but the sleep deprivation and the desire to help the first born child adjust and feel equally cherished is draining - to say the least. In the months to come, as sleep comes for the whole family, I am sure you will find your singing voice once again.

Carrie said...

You have definetly put in to words what most people feel on a daily basis. I know that between the women's retreat, the singles ministry, the youth mission trip, etc. I am swamped and find myself wishing I was one of those people who could just go to church and not get involved completely. But I am not, and as someone once said "thank God because we have enough of those people already". As I've been preparing for the retreat (which is over Hebrews) I've been studying a lot about rest. The rest that Jesus came to give us, and the gift of rest that He does give us and we don't accept. I have read the parable of the wedding banquet, where people are too busy to come to the banquet prepared, not because of bad things, but because of their busyness in general with the blessings that God has given us. There's a lot more to this rest concept that has so much to do with our spiritual well being. In rest comes renewal. I am still looking into it all more, and I'm glad you're recognizing, taking time for yourself and God is so important in your well being and the well being of all the E's around you. :) Good luck in your endeavors.. I'll be praying for you.

euphrony said...

I actually do remember having a similar feeling as this around the time Lil'E was born. Soon after, I went through one of the best spiritual peaks in my life. I hope the same happens again, now. But I hope that I don't have to keep having kids to bring me out of spiritual valleys :)

I love the story of the wedding banquet. The fact that God provides the wedding clothes is amazing; I just need to put them on before I'm tossed into the night.

Anne said...

I read this post when you first published it - it's a lot to ponder. I have mentioned before that I am simple - for lack of better words to use.

First, I'd like to address Carri's comment - sometimes those people who "appear" to not get involved completely doesn't necessarily mean they are NOT serving Him. People don't need to be attending EVERY event (retreat, mission trip, and ministry) the body comes up with in order to be serving the Lord. A lot of people are doing more when it comes to their family, friends and neighbors than appears. Sometimes, I believe we are too busy coming up with things to keep us busy and losing sight of the goal… remaining faithful until death (Rev. 2:10) and teaching others the same.

I believe my first responsibility in serving Him is training up my children in the way they should go, so that when they are old they will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:8) I believe if this is NOT accomplished I will be held accountable for the same. I believe my role as a wife is vital as well - I am to be obedient to my husband and support him. His role as well is to "love" me. I believe if these basic things are not accomplished then what is the rest worth? I have failed in my most important duties that I chose to take on when I decided to marry and have children.

Apart from that, I have family members who are non-believers. I lose sleep at night trying to figure out another approach with my father to teach him. I spent a year with my brother while pregnant with my daughter and after her birth driving 40 minutes every week to study with him – I pray for other opportunities with him and hope the seed that has been sown will flourish when the Lord wills it. I have made attempts with my mother. My sister HAS become a Christian after a very long journey.

These are MY responsibilities - raising up faithful children and teaching my family, friends and neighbors the truth.

We have a regular ladies Bible study on Thursday mornings and I felt bad for not participating but it interferes with homeschool and what I need to accomplish at home. I AM able to attend the evening class on Mondays. I AM able to take a meal to someone. I AM able to make it to services three times per week. I AM able to drive someone to their doctor’s appointments, etc. BUT, I believe my most important service to Him is my family.

What if I am doing a whole bunch of “stuff” and participating on all the “events” but I’m not obedient to my husband? What if I’m doing all the “stuff” but my children grow up to be non-believers?

You don’t have to answer those questions because I’m just rambling off my thoughts. Please forgive me if I offend anyone – I haven’t taken the time to really watch how I’m typing this. Also, please forgive my lack of providing scripture for some of my ramblings as well. I need to go get dinner on the table – that is one thing that really makes my husband happy – smelling dinner when he comes home. He’s easy to please – thankfully.

Thanks for allowing me to ramble.

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