Some things are indispensable in life.
Your presence, Lord, is one of them.
Looking back at my life so far, I can see that everything worthwhile has been gained from the one overwhelming need to know You, hear You, see You. The Musician-King knew it too, how nothing else would satisfy…”One thing I ask…this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
You don’t get to that place out of any strength or special insight or goodness. You get to that point because you have come to the end of your own. It’s unbearable thirst for something More, a hunger that aches till you might well die of all the stuff you consume that isn’t God. You might even find the answer unexpectedly, when you stumble into the wilderness places of life. It’s when you walk in life’s desert places and realize how little this world can give you to satisfy the bone-deep dry thirsting, you begin to realize for yourself what a treasure Jesus was offering when He said that He could give the Living Water that would not run dry (John 10:13-14).
The Singer knew Your presence, longed for You in the wilderness, poured the hollow places of his soul into songs that rose as prayers to You. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water….Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” (Psalm 63:1, 3)… water in the desert to refresh a weary traveler.
More and more I understand how backwards we go about life, looking for the things we need instead of looking for the Giver. Even when it comes to the fruit the Spirit of God grows in us, it is so easy to get sidetracked into pursuing a character quality that will make our relationships work better, make us a better person, make us feel better inside– as if we were planting a garden with the vegetables we liked best– missing the point entirely. Maybe it’s just the gardening metaphor that misleads us, or maybe it is our persistent Self-focus at work. See it’s not about cultivating the qualities we want: growing more patience with our kids, or being more forgiving toward our husbands, or gaining more self-control in our eating habits. It’s about what we need the most even when we don’t realize it: a life-giving relationship with the God who has come to dwell with us. It takes time to figure that out as we grow– that it is a Person we are looking for, not a tangible outcome or even an abstract quality.
When the Church-planter Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit he uses the word karpos, which means simply effect or result. These qualities we are examining then are the result of the Spirit’s presence, much the same as any person has an effect on the room he enters. And so my well-intentioned pursuit of good qualities actually turns into a rabbit-hunt in the brambles (or, to stick with the gardening metaphor, a long labor in the soil with a rake and a hoe) until I never-mind all that and just seek this Person with all the intensity of first love, give myself completely into His care and leave the outcome to Him.
As the great preacher A.W.Tozer said, “Before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in the life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else….We have as much of God as we actually want.”
“Your presence is all I need; It’s all I want; it’s all I seek, And without it…without it I’m not living.” (I Will Exalt, Amanda Falk)