“We are – each and every one of us – a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile. God knows our hearts better than we ever can. He is the only one who can separate the true from the false; he alone can purify the motives of the heart. But he does not come uninvited. If chambers of our heart have never experienced the healing touch, perhaps it is because we have not welcomed the divine scrutiny.
The most important, the most real, the most lasting work is accomplished in the depths of our heart. This work is solitary and interior. It cannot be seen by anyone, even ourselves. It is a work known only to God. It is the work of heart purity, soul conversion, life transfiguration.
Though we cannot see the work itself, we can detect some of its effects. We can experience a new firmness of life-orientation. We experience a settled peace that we do not fully understand and cannot fully explain. We begin seeing everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good. And, most amazing of all, we begin to feel abiding, unconditional warm regard for all people.”
– Richard Foster – Streams of Living Water
A few years ago I bought a CD, “singing bones”, by The Handsome Family. I don’t remember now who introduced them to me, but their music and lyrics are interesting and tell intriguing stories. Lyrics and credits information is wittily followed by their contact information for “the curious or angry.” I’d count myself in the former category.
One of my favorite CD selections is “The Bottomless Hole”. In the song “kitchen scraps and dead cows…tractors broken down” have for years been thrown down a hole in the backyard of a man from Ohio, and he’s never once heard them hit bottom. So he rigs himself a roped chariot to ride down the hole in search of its bottom. The rope could only take him so far, so he kisses his wife and children goodbye, and continues his pursuit. The song ends with him still sinking down that hole.
As I listened to this story it made me think of the depths of darkness in each human heart and of our continual pursuit of dark things that always cut us off from what is real, important, and beautiful, and from the people around us who need our love.
In the song, it had become a perpetual habit for the man in Ohio to toss things down that hole. The tossing started small, just kitchen scraps, and then tossed away things got bigger, and throwing things down that hole became a free-falling, black and consuming abyss. Pursuit of those things became more important than his wife and kids.
Doesn’t this scenario seem a bit extreme? Like the man from Ohio, habits and patterns do become a life pursuit for us, so we should be honest about the kind of life we are pursuing. In the gospels, whenever Jesus came on the scene, out of love, He put his finger on the things keeping people from a bottomless free-fall life imitation.
If we allow God to look with us at what is really true about us, He will show us, and our free-falling can end. Light exposes darkness and love overcomes fear. But just seeing truth, like the rich young ruler, isn’t enough. We have to make a choice about the truth we see. We have to want a certain kind of life and pursue it.
We have an enemy who longs to see us in perpetual free-falling. But, we have a God who will help us see the bottom of our big hole if we want to see it. We can only see truth with God’s help and we can learn from Him how to fill our lives with good things. And seeing truth needs to become one of the habits we pursue.
It’s hard to imagine that we couldn’t see something as big as a tractor – but sometimes, even things that big, we can’t see without God’s help. Only God can help us unearth, redeem, and see that good can be brought out of big scary things. The cry of David for God to know us (Psalm 139) and to be led in the everlasting way isn’t something we should fear, but something for which we should long. Richard Foster calls this way of allowing God to look with us at our life “a scrutiny of love.” The image evoked by those words brings tears to my eyes. Jesus wants you and me to daily experience true life. Only with God’s help can see that our kitchen scraps that lead to tractors, and work with Him to change, to discover our firm foundation for standing. Lives filled with light overcome darkness, the Kingdom is brought to earth, and God is glorified.