We’ve done a lot of talking lately, but it’s mostly been inside my head. I was thinking it was time to get some of these words down, because when I let them rattle around in my brain for too long, it’s easy for me to think the same thoughts over and over again. And it’s easy for me to do a lot of the talking, but none of the listening.
“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Yesterday me and my sweet friend Katie hung out and studied this passage in Isaiah that You revealed a lot of truth to me in last year, at Phi Lamb retreat. We talked about our lives as the desert that your river of mercy is transforming, how You are growing things in us that don’t necessarily come naturally, that wouldn’t be there without You stepping in and planting them. And we talked a little about that verse from Jeremiah, that talks about how easily we seek to dig our own sources of life in the things of this world.
It’s a really wonderful metaphor, one that helps me sift through and categorize some of the different aspects and nuances of the life I’m living. I think that I love this activity so much too because when I did it last year, it really allowed the truth I was learning then about identity to take root in me in new ways. And the hardest thing since then, by far, has been to keep my eyes on that river, on Your source of life.
It was easy to see in Buenos Aires, in a situation designed for growth, where trees shot out of the dry ground and spread their leaves across my entire sky, and so many of the cisterns I’d gotten used to building got removed for me and left here.
It’s harder to see now that I’m back. Obligations masquerade as an oasis, and trick me into believing cisterns might be springs. I may have left them behind while I was abroad, but coming back onto campus, I picked them right back up again. I go to them expecting to be filled and then act surprised when I don’t grow. My vision grows hazy, I squint through the waves of heat rising from the ground, and I lose sight of Your river and my true source in the middle of the mirage.
You know that it is hard for me to live loved, Lord. I think sometimes a better way to think of feeling loved – or feeling loveable – is to think of being full. Love is so conditional in our culture. It’s all too often based in what we can do and be instead of what we already are. When I’m living out of that definition of love, it’s no wonder I have trouble seeing the river of Your mercy, let alone the ways it’s changing the landscape of my life. But when I’m living out an unconditional, unshakable conviction that I am already filled – that the fullness of my God is already poured into my heart and soul, and actively spilling over the brim – the love of others doesn’t feel quite so conditional and contingent anymore. I can stride into situations confident in who I am and who I am being made to be, because I am already full. Doubt is covered in certainty and grace seeps in the cracks to seal up old wounds when they want to cause new fears, because I am already full.
If we become enamored with something in this world we think offers better fullness than God, we will make room for it. We leak out His fullness to make room for something else we want to chase.
It will happen if you, like me, chase perfect order from an imperfect world, thinking it will make you more full.
With God, there is fullness. There is no lack . . . with the fullness of God, we are free to let humans be humans – fickle and fragile and forgetful.
Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited
Thank you for that reality, Jesus. I don’t let it sink in the way I’d like to every day, but I know that You are patient, You are kind, and You are the only love and only source that fills me up, and You will keep teaching me every day until it settles into the core of my being. And I can’t wait to know what that looks like. I love you as I live, Lord.