A few people asked me recently if I have a “word for the year?” Other years I have been drawn to a specific word that seemed to capture the journey of that new year. One year it was “freedom” (from real or perceived pressures or expectations that were not from God). One year it was “courage” (to break out of my comfort zone and trust the Lord with new steps of bold faith). And for the past few years, it has been a phrase, “only as He directs” (which I have not always lived out exactly, but has been a great plum line for me!).
This year, I have been coming up empty.
Then just the other day, a close friend and prayer buddy said to me, “For a few weeks now, I’ve watched you across our leaders’ circle (for Bible study) and noticed a change I can’t quite put a finger on. You just don’t seem yourself, not as present or engaged as usual, almost numb. I’ve wanted to reach out for a while and ask if you are OK.”
It could only have been the Holy Spirit that guided my response, because the words coming from my own mouth surprised me, but steadied me at the same time.
I said, “it is OK. I feel like there is an emptying happening. Yes, a numbing, a blurring of the world around me – like I am sinking into a bubble under water and the sights and sounds are still visible but muffled in a way that cannot sway me. I am being tucked away from it all, like a free fall into the Lord’s arms. I believe the emptying is from Him. A stage of dying. Those parts of me that have only been fueled by me – they need to fall away. My senses need to be dulled to the things that have distracted or discouraged me. In the emptying, it’s OK if it all looks a bit vacant. It is confirmation to me that He is winning my heart. That my heart is reaching a place that is open and ready for Him to reign as Creator again, where He can fill and build as He decides.”
I’ve noticed others taking strides in this new year to step bravely into a new season or role or new direction for a certain calling. Other writers’ growth and testimonies inspire me to be more intentional about my own writing – to have bolder faith that the Lord who gave me this desire and ability WILL show me how to develop and use it for Him. But I also sense a real pause from Him. “Tuck that away for now,” He seems to say to me, “I will show you when and how to retrieve and act on those ideas. For now, don’t rush past this place of simply being tucked away with Me.”
So, this theme lingers, the one that has been with me since I cracked open the first pages of Unseen by Sara Hagerty over the summer – this idea of treasuring solitary time with the Lord Jesus – tucked away. When the world or life in all its complexities presses in unrelentingly, it’s ok to PAUSE. To really let it all blur for a while. To hide away in a private space with my Savior, my Creator, my Teacher, and let Him remake me.
It is amazing to discover that it is not an abandoning “go do your thing and let Me know when you are finished, when you are empty and ready for Me.” NO. He never abandons us. He draws us closer and holds us in the safety of His own presence.
He doesn’t rip the layers off, cruelly, heartlessly. He gently asks for us to surrender them and waits graciously until we offer them in trust. In the meantime, He also holds the pure parts of us that He created in the first place, protecting them from any damage in the demolition.
He heals. He loves. He reveals Himself.
It is tender. It is raw. It is precious.
And so, I am happy to be TUCKED AWAY this year… still!
Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
Come away by yourself to a secluded place. Mark 6:31
I will bring her into a desert place and speak tenderly to her there. Hosea 2:14
“IN THE SECRET of HIS PRESENCE”
oldie but goodie hymn by Ellen L. Gorch (1853)
“In the secret of His Presence how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me, neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me, to the secret place I go.
When my soul is faint and thirsty, ‘neath the shadow of His wing,
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring.
And my Savior rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet;
If I tried, I could not utter what He says when we thus meet.
Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens! And my drooping soul He cheers.
Do you think He ne’er reproves me? What a false friend He would be,
If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see.
Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward:
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face.”