I wake up most mornings serenaded from within by this verse, this childhood Sunday School song.
"This is the day (this is the day), that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made) I will rejoice (I will rejoice) and be glad in it (and be glad in it).
You might not typically wake up singing, but I do. Always have. Maybe it's because my mom would wake us by playing her piano, or singing some made up melody about it being time to wakey-shakey. However, somewhere in my teens this verse became the soundtrack to my morning routine and has remain so for 30-plus years. The lyrics bid me rise and shine no matter how much or how little sleep I get. Scriptures hidden in one's heart can do that, welcome us into our days, and remind us each moment of struggle to fix our eyes on what is true, combating the focus of our flesh when we are sleep deprived, anxious, or hurting.
While the scriptures of my youth have carried me well through years of hills and valleys, I know that it is time for me to gather new verses. I've been resting on the laurels of my childhood faith for far too long. Maybe you have too.
When we began these 40 days of fasting (if you are new this series, here is a good place to start) I wrote out a list of 40 scriptures, and have been diving into a new one every day. However, out of them all, the third day's verse that has most shaped my conversation with The Lord during this fast most of all.
Before my eyes opened this early morning, around the time my good morning tune usually sings me awake from within, this verse spoke into my waking dreams.
"...return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning."
With eyes still shut I whispered back, "Have I left you, Lord? Have I truly left you?"
I opened my eyes, rolled over and pulled back the covers, then sat on the edge to listen. The silence remained but I knew without a word that I had abandoned Him, I just didn't know the details of my wayward devotion. A third time the verse washed over me like a wave and then I asked the Lord for something I do not suggest anyone pray for, unless they want to weep and mourn - I whispered, "God, please convict me today of how I've strayed from you, so that I know how to turn back."
[Tweet "Conviction is like a roadmap if we're willing to take the journey back."]
His answer didn't come in the form of a lightening rod, but almost immediately I began to mourn. Morning turned to mourning, so to speak, and I started longing for His nearness like a child would a parent who's stayed gone far too long. Though I knew it was the child in this case who has tarried. I was weepy, though I could have blamed the fast, blood sugar dropping low and body craving protein, but I knew down deep my tears meant so much more than physical hunger -I was grieving, though I still didn't know what exactly for.
Over the length of the day, homeschooling my eldest, bringing glasses of iced tea to my husband who was working from home, transporting my two younger kids back and forth from one event to another, planning our family dinner and folding clothes, I began to feel the prick of conviction in the unlikeliest of places. The way I turned to Facebook in most every quiet moment, my short responses toward loved ones over the top of another basket of clothes needing folding, the way I fantasized about time to myself as I surveyed home and all it's natural chaos... little things and big things all day long suddenly showed themselves for what they were - a temptress, brazen and bold, and how I longed to follow her toward self-focus and the things of this world that can never truly satisfy.
"God, please convict me today about how I've strayed from you, so that I know how to turn back." Those were the words I had prayed, and come the day's end I could not deny His faithful Spirit-voice. In the busyness of life, I had become a wanderer. Wandering toward the approval of man, wandering toward my selfish desire to love me first. I had strayed.
While I thought this 40 day fast was solely about sugar-addiction, God is good to not set boundaries on His extravagant redeeming Love. "Good," He said, "I'll take your sugar addiction, but I don't want to stop there. That one thing you are willing to deny yourself is not my heart for you... I want it all. Your fast from sugar is simply the door through which I will come in. If you are willing I will meet with you in earnest and have a sit down talk about every corner of your life, every idol you bow down to, every cistern unable to hold water."
My husband uses the term "Let's have a come to Jesus meeting," when He really wants to address issues. It's said as a joke, but Jesus coming in to meet with us is certainly no joke. I see now that's exactly what a fast is - denying one small earthly pleasure, that He might come in that open door and talk with us about every facet, every stronghold, every bit of our wander-lust life. Sitting there, talking and listening and caring so deeply about our transformation, He works His goodness, so much like a fetter, binding us back to Him again. "Return to me", His whisper is soft but firm and altogether compelling. "Return."
Oh to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be Let your goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to thee Prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here's my heart Lord, Take and seal it Seal it for thy courts above
(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1735-1790)