It was one of those days when I felt like a fraud standing in the church pew during worship. Sunday mornings there’s a special kind of chaos that happens in our household and I frequently find myself arriving to church disheveled and loaded down with over-brimming diaper bags and teary children. As I walk in, I am certain that others are disdainfully appraising the bedlam that floats in around us like the perpetual cloud of dust on Charlie Brown’s friend, Pig-Pen. More often than seems appropriate, we’ve had a fight in the car on the way over and as I sit in the sanctuary my heart slouches inside of me like a petulant teenager facing a parent who expects them to make a good showing at a family reunion.
When we started singing “All Creatures of Our God and King” I was barely tuned in. But despite my inability to focus on worship, the words started breaking through in bits and pieces, washing over me…
lights of evening…
flowers and fruits….
…every part of nature being exhorted to praise their Creator God. Each line of the song like an arrow zinged to crumble the stony wall encapsulating my heart.
This verse came to mind from Luke 19:40: He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
When I’ve heard this passage before, I’ve felt a sense of shame that Jesus would have to make a fallback plan in case humans didn’t burst forth with cheers and praise and rejoicing at the presence of the Lord. In previous readings, I’d interpreted this statement almost as the declaration of a frustrated king who, when finding his court is full of useless subjects, waves them out of his presence and announces that it doesn’t matter anyway because he can easily replace them, with stones no less.
But then out of nowhere (well, probably out of Somewhere), my understanding of these verses completely changed. I realized that He who created each and every thing on this planet is fully capable of imbuing every single thing with life, humans and rocks alike! It’s not a statement of our uselessness to Him, it’s merely of a statement of our need for Him and inextricable link between worship and life.
This brings me great hope because there have been many times in recent years when I have identified too closely with this image from Psalms 73 :
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Dulled by the drudgery of long days and deadened by the monotonous work of just plowing the rows and rows of flat field, I could not imagine how I could be used for anything beautiful anymore. Feeling like a brute beast before the Lord, I had lost the sense to know even how to move forward. But this Jesus that we follow guides, gently it seems even, a brute beast! This Psalm goes on,
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
To think, He doesn’t just pull a brute beast towards more drudgery. He guides that brute beast towards glory! Of course, it’s not that he always change our geography or circumstances by taking us out of the dusty field in which we’re working. But He often changes our experience of our fields by walking beside us, touching us with his presence and whispering guidance in our ear, even giving us glimpses of the glory that we are moving towards.
And this same Creator who guides this brute beast to glory will also inspire stones to cry out. He can even animate a lifeless rock to use it to sing to Him!
I am sometimes that rock. Lower even than an animal, I am so dead in myself that I cannot conjure up one drop of life on my own. I need that Creator, Source of Life bigger and better and beyond me, to make me viable again. To make me pliable and usable, something beautiful once more in His potter’s hands.
So as I stood in church that day, those arrows breaking up the stony walls around my heart, by time we got to the verse of the hymn where we sing, “Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, Praise God and on Him cast your care!” I find my whole self lifting upwards, remembering this Creator who is so wonderful that He would inspire even an inanimate object to worship Him!
In that moment and always, I find hope again as I worship Him, turning towards Him to be refreshed by His never-ending flow of living water. But when I’m even worse off than that, when I’m stony-hearted and don’t even have enough life in me to turn like a senseless animal towards Him, He can still reach into me and revive my deadest places to make me sing again.
Am I the only stony-hearted, brutish beast among us? If you’ve got a prayer request, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or put it in the comments below and I’d be happy to pray for you as I pray for myself to be softened for His use and guided to His glory.