Simplicity

I'm very good at 'over-thinking' things, and making them far more complicated than they really are, even though I know, as a Christian, that at their heart they aren't.

Lately I had been mentally 'thrashing around', trying desperately to 'grasp' something - a thought, an idea, a word, a vision...

Something.

I knew it was ‘out there’.

I knew it was important.

But the harder I tried, the more it eluded me. I tried praying, thinking, talking, reading - even ignoring it in the hope of it sneaking into my mind and saying 'BOO!' when I was least expecting it - but I seemed to get no closer to finding out what it was, and ‘capturing’ it.

Then one evening earlier this week we held 'GodSpace' (or God's Pace!) at our church... An opportunity to meditate and pray, silently, together.

And the very first thing that came to mind as I knelt/hid in the chancel to pray, was a phrase from a favourite hymn:

"In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,"

Which is, of course, from the hymn "Dear Lord and Father of mankind” - which definitely bears repeating in its entirety, because the rest of the words resonated in my mind after that.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.

O sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

Quite naturally after that ending, these words from 1 Kings 19 followed:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. ..."

Zealous for the Lord God Almighty? Yeah, I guess that'd be me then. And at that, Psalm 46:10 thudded, unbidden, onto my mental doormat, like some heavenly 'final demand':

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

And, somehow, it all led back to the verses from the book of Proverbs which were given to me by a very wise and perceptive old Christian as I came up out of the waters of baptism:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

(Sorry, I memorised it from the AV - it was a long time ago - and that's how I remember it!)

'Simplicity' is definitely the word, and is what I've been trying so hard, and failing so spectacularly, to grasp. I'd been making everything more and more complicated - as I am wont to do. At its heart the gospel, and our resulting relationship with God, is incredibly simple - and I need to return to that simplicity: "In simple trust like theirs who heard..." They didn't have any complicated theology; they didn't care about the difference between propitiation and expiation nor any of the other stuff with which I fill my mind!

I simply have to trust God.

So here I am, figuratively speaking, stood at the mouth of my cave, with my cloak over my head to keep out the distractions, listening for that still, small, voice of calm.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022