“Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”
~Jeremiah 23:24 NIV~
For years I thought that I could hide from God. I was pretty sure that it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing, He wouldn’t have the time or energy to deal with my rotten attitude and my bad behavior. As usual, in most matters concerning God’s faith in me, I was wrong. Yes, I said His faith in me. He has faith in His people. No matter what we do, where we go, how much we try to avoid Him or to hurt Him, He continues to have faith in what He has created. And so, it occurred to me as I prayed this morning that through all of this, He had never left me. And as this occurred to me, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that I cannot even begin to express in words. He never left me and this is the greatest gift I can ever hope to receive.
I’ve shared before that I was in church during my teen years. I may have also shared that during my time there, I felt as though I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was happy and I enjoyed singing and praising God and just being at the church. Looking back, I see that I had no idea why I was so happy or more importantly, why I was praising God. It was a good thing that I was praising Him, but it could have been so much better had I known just exactly what it all meant. Many Christians go through their entire lives going through the motions of praise without really knowing why they are doing this. They know it is the right thing to do. They know that God appreciates praise. They know that praising Him will ultimately (hopefully) get them to heaven. But there is whole other side to the experience of praise that adds such depth and dimension to what being a Christian is all about. I didn’t realize this until nearly twenty-three years after I had put the whole notion of meaningless praise down along with any inkling that attempting praise was necessary at all.
God planted a seed years ago that tried and tried to bear fruit in my life. When I stepped away from the church, I felt an emptiness but never made the connection that this emptiness was also something God had given me. It is as clear to me as anything that I can see in front of my face, that the seed struggled even as I turned and tried to walk away from Him. He kept watch over me. He sent me lesson upon lesson on how to grow something in my life. He sent blessing upon blessing, hoping that I would use what He was sending me to tend to the garden that was withering away in my soul. With each failed attempt, He remained. He sent me people, money, things, and insights that should have produced fruit long ago. For a brief moment in my life, He showed me what the fruit of love could look like. And whether or not the fault in the failure of this particular crop was mine alone is irrelevant. The fact is that instead of reaching out to Him when I should have, I kept trying to do it all by myself. I kept trying to prove that I didn’t need anyone, including God. And He showed me at every turn just how wrong I was.
What does this have to do with understanding praise? Well, after all that I’ve been through, coming into a season in my life where praise and worship is as much a part of who I am as the air I breathe, I see now that it has all had meaning. What I thought was meaningless back then serves now as a reminder that He gave me what I needed to understand this years ago. He allowed me to have that feeling of being filled with the Holy Spirit so that I would always hunger for it if I ever chose to leave Him. I tried to leave Him many times and the hunger remained…I just didn’t know what it was. Now, struck with the realization that God has been with me for nearly thirty-nine years and that He has watched me at my best and at my worst, but never turned His back on me fills my heart with so much love for Him that it can hardly be contained. God, unlike anyone else in our lives, isn’t turned off or put out by our ignorance. He won’t give up on us even when it looks like we are begging him to do just that. He keeps giving and giving and giving even to the point of having sacrificed His one and only Son. He gives us everything we need including room to grow when we are determined not to listen. He gives us the will to either serve Him or forsake Him. He gives us a full measure of peace, love and happiness on top of which we heap our own insecurities, misgivings and trust issues…and these don’t come from Him. He tells us it is okay when we mess up and gives us every opportunity to turn ourselves around long after the people in our lives have given up on us. He knows what He has made and never gives up hope that we will become what He has created us to be. Now, I understand and I love Him even more than I ever thought possible. And He knew that I would all along.
~Psalm 26:2-3 (NIV)~