I went to China two summers ago. I saw God move in power, both in the students and in my own heart. And there was something that God began to show me there that has continued to burrow into my heart. I pray that it resonates with some of you inter-webs out there.
That summer, I had been reading some awesome stuff from the great Charles Spurgeon. I always wondered how these giants of the faith did it. How did they love God SO much? This guy would spend hours studying the Bible and even more hours in prayer. My devotion paled in comparison to dear Charles. I was bound and determined to live up to this challenge.
It was the second week and I was still adjusting to the crazy twelve-hour time change. (China is literally on the other side of the world, for those of you who didn’t know. I’ve seen Street Smarts. You’d be amazed at what people don’t know.)
I woke up at around 4:30am. Charles Spurgeon probably wakes up this early on purpose I thought to myself. I rolled out of bed, grabbed my Bible and journal and went in to the living room of our extra Chinese apartment.
It seemed appropriate to start my morning with some prayer. Charles Spurgeon probably prays on his knees with his face to the ground. I assumed the position. I figured that if I could pray like Charles Spurgeon, maybe I would eventually love God like Charles Spurgeon. Facedown on the floor, I waited for said love to come crashing down on me. Aaaaany minute now…
Fifteen minutes later, I decided I would try from a different angle. Charles Spurgeon knew his Bible like nobody’s business. I picked up my Bible and sat down at the kitchen table. It fell open to Romans 7. I read it. And then I read it again. And then I prayed and prayed for God to let me love Him. If God would just God let me feel His love, then it would make it much easier to read the Bible and pray all day. Surely, He knows this!
I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. I began to weep. Think of the ugliest cry face and then slap it on mine. It was bad. Swollen eyes. Runny nose. The whole shebang. Romans 7 was sopped with tears. I finally gave up after an hour. The sun had risen and my roommates were beginning to stir. Clearly, God didn’t love me as much as He loved Charles.
I felt utterly rejected by God. I didn’t read or pray for days. I was too scared. However silly it sounds, my heart ached at the thought of going through that again.
A few days later I was riding the subway after a long day and I finally asked God what had happened that morning. He answered immediately.
I don’t want your Charles Spurgeon heart.
I beg Your pardon? It was so loud and clear in my heart, it was almost as if He actually spoke it into my ear.
I don’t want your Charles Spurgeon heart. I want YOU.
This began a new journey in my life. It was something I had never even considered. God was actaully doing me the favor of refusing to accept my devotion that morning because I wasn’t actually offering anything. I didn’t think He wanted me! My mind was too messy. My heart was too broken.
But in trying to be like Charles, I was actually hiding. Just like Adam and Eve’s fig leaves in Eden.
He told me something I hope I never forget.
Hope, I know who I am. I don’t need you to tell me. I don’t want your empty praise. What I want from you is to entrust your heart to Me. Your hopes, your fears, your anger, your joy, your sorrow, your dreams. No matter how ugly or shameful you think it is, I want it all. People give their hearts to the the ones they trust. It’s the most beautiful sacrifice you can offer.
Two summers later and I’m still learning this. But God has been so patient and so faithful every step of the way.
Yes, there is much that I can learn from Charles. But to try to be Charles is a crime of the highest degree. Do you know why? Because I was, in effect, telling God that who He made me to be was simply not enough. And He is kind and gracious to show me the truth:
It’s true. I’m not enough for God. He deserves more than you or I could ever give Him. But JESUS’s life is enough! And when he died and rose again, he gave us his “enough”. And then he gave us new hearts and made us children of God, to be loved to the absolute core. And because everything is forgiven under the blood of Jesus Christ, we can be fully known and fiercely loved. And so even though we aren’t perfect, we are enough.
Being His child means that I can bare the grossest, darkest things in me and He doesn’t look away in disgust. Instead, He looks directly at me without even wincing and says it’s forgiven. No more fig leaves.
Do you hear me? NO MORE FIG LEAVES. Naked and unashamed, baby! There is nothing more freeing than that. I have to quit hiding. Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to hide. We have to quit hiding.
Fully known. Fiercely loved.