Saturday, 6 October 2012

I asked the Lord, foolishly perhaps

    It's Thanksgiving weekend here. I'm not averse to giving praise where it's due and I have a lot to be thankful for this time around. More than I can even speak of. I usually start bawling when I think about how much better my prospects in life are now than they were a year ago when the only thing I had to be thankful for was that Jesus was coming back at some point to destroy the world, and certain places with it.

     Needless to say I've had a bit of a reversal of fortune in the last month or so. It feels a little like the epilogue of Job, when the narrator says "don't worry, God gave him all his awesome accoutrements back".  Like waking to hear the birds singing and thinking maybe all that horribleness was just a dream because everything is right again. You have your life back. But as you regain conciousness, there's something different. Like a lump in the throat, a knowledge, a qualitative change in feeling that grows stronger the more you remember.

     I still have everything I ever wanted and needed, but it's not the same. These are different children and a different house; and moreover, I am a different human being. I saw God in the eye of a whirlwind--standing at the very epicentre of the hell my life had become.

     John Newton wrote a dark and plaintive hymn on that experience. The failure of every plan, the destruction of all you held dear by God himself. All is lost and all you can do is trust in the one who slays you. And that's where he meets you--in the pits of death, clinging tenuously to what life you have left, crying with all the pain of your soul. Job himself would have understood so well.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

    When the birds are singing in the morning, one can't help but note how silent they were mere hours before. And you know you're never going to forget what the silence was like. Because God has stepped in and changed you, and in that, everything around you. Just not in the way you ever expected.  To paraphrase Luther, he took you to heaven by way of hell. And heaven seems so much more beautiful knowing what hell was like.

And man. Who the hell writes hymns like this anymore?