Prone to Wander, I feel it.

I’ve felt a little cold this winter. Have you?

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is already behind us, and the New Year is a few hours away. I hear John Lennon’s words echoing through my eardrums,

So this is Christmas,
and what have you done?
Another year over,
and a new one just begun.

I don’t know how I’d answer that question, but it wouldn’t be a pretty answer.
Call me cynical, but when it comes to the end of the year, I’m usually not moving forward with an eager-eyed sense of anticipation…

I’m usually just a little crippled (if not a lot) by the realization that the past year was not what I thought it would be, and certainly not what I wanted it to be.

And friends, this year is by no means an exception.

Regret, shame, guilt, bitterness,
they’re a close-knit family,
And if you meet one, it’ll introduce you to its siblings fast enough.

And I feel like I’m stuck at a family gathering with the whole gang this season.

Repentance and trust look like the most unreachable and impossible things in the world when you’re in this kind of rut. It feels like God’s asking you to carry a grand piano up a mountain when your legs are both broken.

Not very desirable, not very accessible.

It’s one of those things where you have to experience it to believe it can work.

But when you’re not experiencing that kind of transformation, it looks just as impossible as bringing life out of death.

I mean, that is kinda what it is.

But a couple nights ago, I was reminded of this hymn that I’ve known and loved for a long time.

But this night, it just hit me right in the heart…

 

Come Thou, Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the Mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of God’s unchanging love…

I’ve always thought it funny how it seems you never hear a hymn sung the same way twice. It seems like we can’t decide on which word to sing. Is it “grace,” or “praise”? Is it “Mount” or “Name”? I get that there are different versions of songs, but I always thought it silly how people sang “grace,” instead of praise.

I mean what does it mean? “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace?”

Then it hit me…

My heart has been out of tune.

If I’ve been singing at all lately,
It certainly hasn’t been grace that I’ve been singing of.

What does it mean to be singing God’s grace?

Well, his unmerited kindness to you —
the nothing-you’ve-done-to-deserve goodness and love of God to you;
the everything-you’ve-done-to-NOT-deserve mercy of the Father.
— to make that your song,

to make that your Reason-to-be.

to claim that as your life story.

to be fixed upon God’s colossal, mountain-sized love for you.

Oh God, make that my song.
Your ceaseless mercy calls for it.

Here I raise my Ebenezer: “Hither by Thy help I’ve come.”
And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Cause Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

When your life seems like a mess and a half, it’s hard to look back with any hope.
But here I raise my Ebenezer, my “stone of help,”

just like Samuel did in 1 Samuel 7 when the Israelites finally took the time to get honest with God about their lives, and seek His face after wandering in the scum of sin… only to be attacked by Philistines at their most vulnerable point—but the Lord intervened, and rescued them supernaturally. Good ‘ol Samuel set up a stone there, and called it an Ebenezer, proclaiming “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

So,

here I raise mine…

 

…I may be a mess,
But I have breath in my lungs,
and a story that cannot be unwritten by the mistakes I make.

God has helped me.
Hither by Thy help, I come.

God’s grace has been faithful to me this far,
and he ain’t gonna stop his grace anytime soon.

and

O to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be
But let Thy grace Lord 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…

 

Ain’t that the truth.

If there’s anything I’ve learned after being a Christian for 7 years,

it’s that I am never as faithful as I wish I was…

Shame will always have something to chain me to
Regret will always remind me of the past
Guilt will always have something to tear into
Bitterness will always have something to
the accuser will never tire of accusing
and this will always create the potential for me to fall into despair

misery could always become my story

But

By the grace of God, I can beat the family to the punch.

I can say,

Yup that’s me.

I’ve always been prone to wander.

I’ve always been prone to leave the God I love.

I can own up to my crappy mess I’ve made of my life, and say

Lord. Pardon my guilt, for it is great (Psalm 25:11)

God, here’s my heart, contorted as it is

Make me yours

Make this story that’s destined to be a tragedy a tale of redemption.

Draw me out of the mud and mire, and set my feet on a rock.

Give me a song to sing.

I said earlier that from the outside in, repentance looks like the most impossible and painful thing in the world,

But when you’re in tune with grace, all of a sudden you see that repentance is running back into the arms of a Father who loves you—or rather, letting him throw his arms around you.

And that is worth it.

And all I can say is, friends

It is good to be back.

Friends,

as this new year comes,

I pray you’ll come back with me.

PSALM 25:16-18
Turn to me and be gracious to me,

    for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.

PSALM 40:11
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain

    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!

Praise be to the nail-scarred hands that crafted such a beautiful redemption.

Amen.

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