When you said, Seek you my face; my heart said to you, Your face, LORD, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)
Years ago, when I was a teen, I read this verse – and something lept within me. It was the answer of my own heart, just as the psalmist answered – a “yes Lord” that set me on pilgrimage to know the Lord, to seek Him out. I knew that I had “received Jesus into my heart” as evangelicals teach people to do to “get saved” and make a commitment to Christ, and I had done so with all earnestness – but while that is often conflated with knowing Him, I knew that I did not know Him, or at least not to the degree He seemed to be inviting me to know Him. And I didn’t know HOW I was going to get to know Him, but only that I really, really wanted to get to know Him better.
So to seek Him, I read the Bible. And I prayed. And prayed. And I tried to tune in, to listen. I knew that prayer was supposed to be a two-way conversation, and yet I had no idea HOW that was supposed to work. Knowing what prayer is supposed to be, and knowing how to make it be that way, are miles and miles apart. So I tried through fits and starts to learn how to hear God’s voice, how to be aware of His presence within me, or even outside of me in others.
But still, when I thought of the concept of “Seeking the Lord” – I really had in mind this inward journey. After all, Christ lived IN me, so that’s where He was to be found. I had to learn how to be truly aware of where He was in all that was me – where did His presence reside? Could I learn the difference between my own inner noise, and my own imagination, and the true indwelling Christ somewhere in my Spirit? To that end, I sought Him. And I would encourage anyone reading this to do the same. I found Him there. I learned what His presence is like, I learned how He speaks to me to one degree or another, and I entered into a new experience eventually of rich communion with Him, a process I am still growing in to this day.
But that is not ALL it means to seek the Lord. Because as much as it is truly important to become aware of the Spirit of God and His voice and all that, even so, we still see through a glass darkly. Even with the richness of communion and personal experience with Him, there is a whole side to seeking Him that isn’t exactly inward at all, but is extremely outward, that is part of what it means to really look for God.
Because, seeking Him is also about living Him out. And to do that requires context.
What context? He doesn’t always tell us. There’s a side to the Lord’s dealing with us that stops being about Him telling us what to do, and starts being about our heart – our pilgrimage, our perception of Who He Is and how to express that in this world. Does that sound vague or unclear? It is hard to put into words, but I am trying to explain. Something is capturing your heart, even now. It is a vision of the heart, and it motivates you. Sometimes you ignore it, sometimes you are driven by it, but there is a vision that motivates you – and it is how you have perceived the Lord, what revelation of Him has captured your mind and heart.
For some people, it is a vision of His glory. You have become riveted by the glory of the Lord, and you want to see His glory expressed on Earth. For some, it is an awareness of His love – leaving you with a burning desire for others to know and experience that love as well. For some, it is a sight of His passion for justice – and you also long to see justice done in the Earth. For some, it is the beauty of truth clearly made known and expressed, cutting through darkness and lies – and if that is you, you long to know truth and to help others know truth. I couldn’t possibly think of every version of this, but every person who has been born into a new life in Christ has something of Him they have seen, that drives them after Him. You can’t seek someone if you don’t have something pulling you towards them. Whatever you have glimpsed, in your own soul, of His person, is mixed together with your own fleshly inclinations and motivations in life, and together this mix of human drive and heavenly drive is pulling on your heartstrings even if you are unconscious about what your revelation of Him is, and causing you to make decisions about every step you take in life. To seek Him, means that you are in a process of trying to determine where He might be found, and you are motivated by that to try to push out of the way lesser desires as you are pushing towards the revelation of Him you have seen – and trying to put feet on the ground, as it were, for how to live that out.
So thus you are called to a process. Hearing Him is part of that process, but it’s only a small part. You are called to seek the revelation you have of the Lord not just in your own mind and heart, but out there – with your life. You’re called to do something with it…to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in every way.” While there is obedience to His commands buried in that idea, that’s not ALL that is there. You’re called to figure out, in your own messy way, how to lay hold on Christ to the fullest degree in your life that you are able.
So, my friend, you are called to mess up your life, in a really big way. What? What do I mean by that? You can shut yourself in your closet, and pray and pray, or worship and worship, trying to see more revelation. But sooner or later you need to come out of that closet and figure out how to actually live this search out. And for many people, that’s going to look really wasteful to others – because you really aren’t going to know what you’re supposed to do next. But seeking implies a certain level of passion, of desperation. And a passionate, desperate heart without a clear direction of what to do next can make some awfully huge messes. It’s ok. It’s your burnt offering, to mess up your life as you try to live out, by trial and error, a search for how to live out the search for the vision and revelation God has given you in your own life. It needs to happen. If it doesn’t happen, it’s quite possible that you’ve been holding back.
So you’ll do stupid things, things that you will think at the time are what it will take to run towards a life lived for Him. You might major in something in college you never thought was for you. You might drop out of college while everyone watching from the sidelines thinks you are nuts. You and your spouse might sell a house and move somewhere – somewhere you think is a wise and calculated move, or somewhere that seems like a nonsensical and impulsive move. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve calculated it or jumped into it – either way, you’re moving because there’s a group of people you sense are the next step in your journey to live out something you’ve seen of the Lord. Or because there’s a job that’s been offered to you that seems like it will take you in that direction. Or because you had a dream one night about selling your house and moving. Who knows? The reasons are as varied as the people reading this, but the common thread is this: seeking the Lord with your life means you’re gonna try things. You’re gonna do things. You’re gonna risk things, and sometimes those risks will work out, and you will find out your vision of Him was really much clearer than you thought it was. And sometimes you’ll find out your vision of Him was really askew, and you built on motivations in your soul that weren’t as noble as you thought they were at the time, but it still works out and you still find Him in a new way, because while you’re seeking Him, He’s seeking You too. But you’ll do things, and you’ll learn along the way.
And sometimes you’ll rest from seeking Him, and find that even while you thought you were resting, some part of you never stopped seeking. “I slept but my heart was awake” – Song of Solomon, 5:2 But in sleeping for just a little while, you find that seeking Him in the season you’re in looks different than making huge risks and decisions where you gamble seemingly everything. And then, just as you think the Lord has called you to a place where nothing big is happening, something will present itself…something strange, or silly, or huge, or little – but something calling you to step out on the water again, to seek a chance to draw nearer to the One you see standing out there among the waves again. Maybe you can’t even tell if it’s Him, as Peter said, “Lord, *IF* it is you, bid me come to you on the water…” That’s part of the seeking. So often we can’t see – we only glimpse. We are called to do things in an attitude of abandonment and relinquishment when we barely even now what we’re seeing – when we’re not really sure if it’s Him. And after the first time we find that it wasn’t Him on the water after all, He’ll come to us again on the water, and we’ll long to step out on that water again, scared even more this time because what if our eyes are playing tricks on us again? But nonetheless, it’s time to test the Spirit, to find out if it’s Him once more. It’s time to make ourselves the guinea pigs in this divine experiment of living for all that He has captured us with of Himself. And each time, we learn a little bit more about what can trick us, and what is really of Him – but only if we risk it all.
We need to strap on our helmets, our kneepads, our shinguards, our elbow guards, because seeking Him means: we’re going in. We’re going to bet the farm. We’re going to run the gauntlet. We may know a little more each time about what a good bet looks like and what it doesn’t -but martyrdom is not just something that happens when someone persecutes you for Christ. And it’s not just the turning the cheek we do as we crucify our flesh in everyday life. Sooner or later, you’ll be presented with a choice: try something new, that He might be in – something that might cost you. Or, stay where you are and see nothing new or clearer of Him at all. When that choice comes, seek Him with your life. Break the alabaster jar containing all the riches you have upon His feet. Be ready to have your hand stopped by an angel should you be doing something the Lord wants to spare you from, don’t stubbornly proceed no matter what – but even then, know that He sees the intention you had to pursue His call, and that nothing in the Kingdom ever goes unrewarded. You can’t lose, so be ready to lose it all. Seek Him with your life.
(Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fewaaat/ )