by Marjorie Wingert
After a week of absolute gluttony, laziness, and self-indulgence, I found myself pounding the treadmill. Arms pumping and muscles straining, my thoughts wandered over the past week. Spring Break came as a welcome diversion from the usual hustle and bustle. Yet with all its fun and leisure, I came away feeling empty and unfulfilled. This is not to say we hadn’t enjoy our time together. We had fun! Biking, swimming, movies, trips to parks, and eating out characterized our week of play. We slept-in, went to bed when we liked, and were the masters of our own time. Why then, did I feel so distant and empty? Why then did it feel like I was dangling from a precarious perch?
The answer came amidst the streaming sweat and labored breathing. Why, Lord? Is it something I’ve done? Have I wronged you? The fervency of my cries kept pace with the intensity of my workout. Speak to me, Lord, I begged. My thoughts bounced between my pleas to earnest reflection of the past week. As memories surfaced in my mind, a pattern emerged. Although filled with fun, how much time had I spent seeking after God? How often did I take time to consult Him regarding decisions? When had I invited Him into take part in the day, activities, or projects? When had I asked Him to help me make the best use of this time?
Then, it hit me like a steamroller. The light bulb suddenly clicked on. During this Spring Break, I had made myself god over my own life rather than God, Himself. I had not sought Him in the dark or the quiet. Nor had I paused to ask for His wisdom when faced with decisions. I had chosen gluttony over self-control and spending over self-restraint. I even took His favor and blessings for granted without stopping to ask or pray. I had chosen my ways over God’s ways.
Forgive me, oh Lord, I inwardly cried, prostrate in spirit though not in form. Lord, I am so sorry. And then, as my breath gasped out and air rushed in, a new prayer took up the mantra. Not of me, I breathed in. But of You, I breathed out. Not me, but You. My chest rose and fell to the simple rhythm of this prayer. Each word was as pointed as the thrusts of my fists and the hammering of my feet.
Then, silent and still it came. Even through the radio blaring, people talking, and the clanking machinery, an outpouring of grace and mercy flooded over me. I have loved you from the beginning, even before you were born, came the still, soft voice to my heart. I have watched over you and am with you. So great was this deluge of undeserved love, it crested over me in beautiful waterfalls. Tears filled my eyes and gratitude washed deep. Memories flashed through my mind of His protection, provision, and blessing. These past remembrances fueled the thankfulness swelling deep within my heart as God’s undeserved love rained down over me.
Praise the Lord, our God is a God of grace and mercy. He is not an authoritarian who rushes to scold. He does not condemn. Instead, He is a God who loves us no matter who we are, what we have done, and where we have been. His love never fails and it never gives up. As we are reminded in Psalm 36, God’s love is steadfast. It is so big, it even stretches to the heavens.
We all make wrong decisions. We all sin. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet when the eyes of the blind are opened and we see with new eyes, we are faced with a choice. We can either choose to atone for the truth revealed or we can don blinders to ignore.
For me, the choice was obvious. For when we yield ourselves to God, as Psalm 23 tells us, He leads us beside quiet waters. He restores our souls and guides us in paths of righteousness. Even when we walk through dark valleys, God is with us. With Christ, our heads are anointed with oil and our cup overflows. And when we yield ourselves to the Good Shepherd, goodness and mercy will follow us all our days and we will dwell with Him forever.