Saturday, 31 August 2013

Holiness, Worship, and the Refiners Fire

I was in my car yesterday listening to a CD that my husband was given for his birthday, "Passion 2013". Our kids have this irritating/cute habit of only wanting the "really REALLY FAST songs" so we don't often get to listen to all the tracks on albums these days.
In any case, I think I just had the baby in the car, and a track came on called "My Delight is in You". I wasn't listening too hard, but then towards the end the song morphed into an old song from my passionate youth. I sung this as a teen worship leader in the Baptist church during the heights of a movement of the Spirit in the late 90's, and hearing it I just felt... I don't know. Confused. Overwhelmed. Nostalgic. Yearning?

The song is called "Refiners Fire" and she sings the chorus which says:

Refiners Fire, My hearts one desire,
Is to be Holy, Set apart for You Lord
I choose to be Holy, Set apart for You my Master
Ready to do Your will

 As I listen to the rest of the Passion song, the lyrics say "Holiness is my desire / Purify, burn in me / Come and make me clean / You refine me in your Fire"

I remember singing those lyrics, so earnest, so naive. Believing that somehow in myself, I could be holy. I could by my devotion and dedication, somehow be set apart for God, for marvellous works for Him. That I was loved, treasured, and wanted because of my desire to be Holy. That God looked down on us singing those words and we were close to him because of this sort of doctrine, for lack of a better word, of Do Christianity Well, and God Will Make Stuff Amazing For You. It was so real to me. And I write this with tears running down my cheeks, because still as I listen to those words, even though the narrative of my life hasn't turned out as I believed 20 years ago, there is something inside me that still wants this. To be Holy. Set apart for You, Lord.

I don't consider myself a bible scholar, by any stretch of the imagination, so when I read those lyrics I feel sometimes lost because I don't know where they come from, what the context is, is it scriptural - what does it even mean to be holy?

I looked it up and found this verse from Zechariah 13, verse 9 onwards:

"In the whole land", declares the Lord, "two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it.  This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them, I will say, "They are my people", and they will say, "The Lord is our God".

 When I look at my life, from the years of 13 to 32 - (Am I 32? Or 33? I forget and need to ask my mother) - I think those first 10 years of 13 to 23 were just a blur of heady, emotional, earnest and yet completely blind church and christian culture obsession but also God obsession. I have been through periods of thinking I was a fool, and feeling deeply embarrassed by the heights and depths of my emotions in my relationship with God - especially as I was a worship leader during these years, almost every Sunday from when I was 15 onwards - yet I have come to accept that actually, while perhaps I was young and naive, everything I said and did was heartfelt. The way things appeared genuinely was the way that things were. So while I think sometimes my earnest and black-and-white approach to my faith sometimes rode roughshod over people and their unique circumstances, I didn't intend harm. And in fact I probably did do some good.

But when I think of from 22 to now... and I think of that verse in Zechariah... and I hear those lyrics. I'm really just processing it as I write... (as when else do you have a chance? As a mum of 3 littlies). I think I was dumped into the fire. Along with many of my closest friends. And I had plenty of moments where I felt like I called on God's name and he didn't answer.

But He did. I am still here. And this year I feel like He has spoken to me more than in any of the years previous. As I enter a new decade in this journey of faith, I am profoundly grateful for the presence of God in my life, for what he has taught me, for where he continues to lead me. For who he has made me to be by putting me through the fire. By testing me. For I know He is with me. I have never been both more in love with Jesus, and more useless in terms of the "Good Christian Stuff I Should Be Doing". In doing nothing, in failing at every attempt I could make to be "holy", to be a "Good Christian" on my own, I have found my Jesus. I have found my relationship with God again, 20 years on. In the empty space, in my own lack, in my own weakness, God has revealed himself to me.

I still don't think I really know what it means to be holy. I could pontificate on this a while longer but I'm just listening to that song over and over and thinking... it's enough really. It's never us that does the work, it is never our responsibility, we can never be holy of our own accord... all we can do is love.

Here I am, open arms
Draw me close to Your heart
You're my life, You're my refuge
My delight is in You

1 comment:

  1. You said what I struggle to find words to say. Thank you.