Tuesday, May 24, 2005

a refrain

I don’t know about you, but in my reading I like to mix it up. Thus it was a nice change of pace to go from reading the intense biography 'Rees Howells: Intercessor'*, two weeks ago, to Dale Cramer’s fiction 'Bad Ground'. As much as I love fiction though, it is biographies in which I get most involved, and through which the Lord tugs most at my heart. Rees Howells’ story in particular had me doing some soul searching so deep I questioned a few days after I’d finished the book – did God really say to me the things I thought He did, or was I simply caught up in the spirit of the book?

After finishing 'Bad Ground', I was hungering to read something different again and found myself at my bookshelf and dusting off an old book – 'The Pursuit of God' by A. W. Tozer. Here would be another type of book entirely.

Imagine my surprise, then, when on getting to chapter 3, one of the themes about which I’d been captured from Howells’ life story reappeared.

The entire book of Tozer’s is grappling with the issue of how a person becomes intimate with God. In chapter 3, he draws a comparison of our relationship with God to tabernacle worship in the Old Testament. He shows how we are drawn to Him in stages like a worshiper would be drawn, first into the outer court, then nearer, to the holy place until finally he would find himself just outside the Holy of Holies, separated from God by only a veil.

Tozer asks:

"Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God....We sense that the call is for us, but still we fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle. What doth hinder us?"

"The answer usually given, simply that we are 'cold' will not explain all the fact. There is something more serious than coldness of heart, something that may be back of that coldness and be the cause of its existence. What is it? What but the presence of a veil in our hearts.

"[...] It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies their subtlety and their power.

"To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.

"[...] Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instructions...We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us.

"[...] Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain.

"[...] Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified."

Ouch! This sounds altogether too familiar. But haven’t I already had that dealing-with-the-self-life-lesson? Or is God trying to get my attention with this, to tell me there is more?

Actually, I’ve noticed this repeating of themes in my life before. I think it’s not an unusual thing. Paula spoke about it in a post on her blog a few days ago – likening hearing God to hearing music. I first hear God’s voice as a single note and I’m not even sure I heard anything. Then I hear that note again and this time it’s stronger, and followed by other notes so that soon I recognize a melody.

As Paula says it:

"He reveals Himself in a pianissimo or a forte. He keeps my tempo with andante and allegro. He counsels me to wait in the rests, punctuates with a coda. And a chorus is often repeated so that my sometimes-deaf ears can hear it again."

I feel as if that repetition has been happening to me. And now that I think on it, I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear this beware-the-self-life refrain again, and again, and again... It is such a difficult lesson, I wonder sometimes, will I ever get it? Will that refrain ever become a coda?

*Somehow Blogger is not letting me use italics or blockquotes today, without banishing my sidebar to the bottom of the page!


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