I’ve not been where I felt I “should be”. Spiritually, that is. In the last few weeks the stain of sin has felt unshakable. I am aware of every misspoken word. Punishing myself mentally for letting them slip that way and analyzing them endlessly, worrying that I’ve offended someone or tainted their view of me.
So when I stood in the sanctuary of my church I lifted my hands, praying desperately that they be cleansed. I must repent. I must have a pure heart before Him. How else would He hear me? I don’t know how many songs passed while I offered these furtive pleas with no relief. I kept waiting for the feeling of absolution. Or if I couldn’t feel forgiven, I at least wanted to feel sorry. Guilt wasn’t enough. Shouldn’t I be crying or something?
In a last blanket effort just to show God “I mean this.” I cried out, “I need you. I need you! I just need you.” They were words. Ones that I have spoken countless times over many years as part of my ritual of repentance.
He responded to me with a question. “Why? Why do you need me?”
He wasn’t harsh, because I would have found comfort in that and dismissed his inquiry. For years I have taken refuge in the rebuke of God. I figured as long as He is correcting me, He hasn’t given up on me. For months I have expected the scourge but received comfort instead.
I thought, “What? Why? Does that even matter? Isn’t it enough to know you’re needed? I am acknowledging that I can’t do this on my own. I need your help. What’s wrong with that?” I felt defensive, afraid of His rebuke. After all, we sing, “I need thee every hour.” Our dependence is something to be lauded, isn’t it?
“No. Why? You need me to what end? For what purpose? You need my help. For what?”
I began to understand. “I need you to give me clean hands and a pure heart. I need you to make me presentable. I need to be clean so that I can stand before you. So that I can lift my head in front of you. So I won’t be so ashamed. So I can serve you.” I want to be cleaned up, and feel cleaned up to my standards so that I can then stand before the very one who cleaned me up to begin with. I decided He couldn’t use me as I am. And I decided when I was presentable enough to represent him.
He spoke again. “You need me for what I can do for you. You need me cleanse you. But what about me? Do you really need me? Will you forget about me once you’ve been purified to your satisfaction?”
I’ve ruminated on that question for a while. I can see that’s exactly what I’ve done. I have cycled through seasons where I simply don’t “need” Him as much as I do in others. I would never admit that to anyone, not even myself.
It’s frightening to think that despite years of walking with the Lord, I’ve only had a utilitarian relationship to Him. I want there to be an exchange. My sorrow over my sin for His sanctification. And only when I feel sufficiently sorry, do I allow Him close enough to comfort me, to speak to me.
This week the Lord showed me that this concept of exchange for grace is what He turned over tables in the temple for. But the fathers house is not a place for trade. It will never be “even”. And as long as I try to make it “fair” I am robbing myself, robbing Him, of true relationship.
I am completely disarmed. I have no argument left. My only choice is to approach Him with a humble heart and simply accept the grace He has offered without argument. And in this I will learn to know Him, rather than need Him.