In the spring of 2008, I spent 3 1/2 months in the wonderful country of Israel. Sitting here now in 2011 in my cozy home with a loving husband and two snuggly kitties, I find myself homesick even now. Sigh… I know we’ll eventually go to the new Jersulam, but I hope that one day not too far away, we’ll be able to make it to this original version, so that Adam will have a chance to experience this Biblical location I love so much.
I mention this because today, in our online quiet time, we read Psalm 143. In this Psalm, David is looking back over his past and remembering all that God has done in his life. He is begging for God to be just as real to him then as He was to him in “the days of old” (vs.5). Reading this brought me right back to Israel and to one event that took place there that I remember like it was only yesterday:
[Taken from My Roommates are Great! [March 13, 2008]
On Friday, we had morning classes then packed up and drove an hour and a half to En Gedi and the Dead Sea! …We all [got to
go] swimming!!!…We returned to camp wet and smelling like salt to enjoy our bag-dinners of a turkey/cheese sandwich, chips, an orange, pretzels, and cookies. Very soon after, the guys started the bonfire, which we all gathered around, for the sun was going down and the temperature dropping.
Abner [my professor] then led us in a short talk which resulted in his sending us out in small groups to find a quiet place and either spend some time in prayer as a group or split off and spend time alone. My group (Jared, Molly, John, Noel, and I) headed off towards the shore and decided on splitting up, so I spent about 20 minutes sitting, thinking, and praying on the literal shores of the Dead Sea. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
To be honest, it was a powerful time of silence. I prayed a lot. I desired God to speak to me. I desired to hear His voice, to hear something profound, and to be powerfully convicted, torn with the Truth, or overflowing with joy. No. Not now. There was only silence.
I prayed. I searched my heart for some hidden sin. I poured out my heart before the Lord. Did you ever feel your prayers bounce off the ceiling? Imagine now a ceiling so close that the words can barely leave your lips. Such was my time there.
I remembered 1 Kings 19:11-12, which says ‘So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD ” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.” I listened for His still small voice, His gentle blowing. I longed for it. He didn’t speak. He was silent.
That kind of scared me. I desired Him, and I was sensing more than ever how much I needed him.
Noel called out that our 20 minutes was over and we should head back. I got up to go and only then did I feel as if the Lord spoke to me reminding me of Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” and how awful life would be had He not saved me. I could barely stand 20 minutes of His silence let alone living my whole lifetime removed from Him. Even now as I write this I remember when Jesus was on the cross and the Father turned His face away. Talk about scary!
When we returned to the campfire, Abner spoke on using the time we have in the dessert to honestly evaluate our walks with the Lord. He shared a personal story of a friend who walked away from the Lord and challenged us to stop lying to ourselves about where we are with God and to look honestly at ourselves to see where our desires really are. Are you noticing a pattern too? =) The more I learn the more I realize how little I desire God as I should and how “deceitfully wicked” my heart is. More and more I see how I need to live out the first part of Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the Lord…”) and how merciful God is in blessing me despite my lack of merit.
“Seek me like that. Pant for me like that.” Those are the words that echo in my heart and mind even now, over three years later.
This experience remains one of the most-impacting moments of my spiritual walk. It was there at the shore that I believe God challenged me to yearn for Him, to cry out for Him, to realize how much I needed Him –not just then, but always. It was then that I was impressed to desire Him the way that deer mentioned in Psalm 42 pants for the water.
David’s song in Psalm 143 leaves me silent again. Like David begged God for the renewal of their close relationships, so I am found on my knees again, remembering “the days of old”, when I would regularly “hear of [Him] in the morning, of what [He] had done.”
This was David’s prayer that day so long ago, and this is my prayer tonight:
“I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O LORD, my spirit fails;
Do not hide Your face from me,
Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies;
I take refuge in You.
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me.”