Andy introduced a new song to the early service this week. The first verse and chorus from "Your Joy", released by Josh Fox earlier this year, says
In Christ I am a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come
In Christ I'm free, from guilt and shame
I am fully known and fully loved, I am Your joy, Your joy
the one that You love, the apple of Your Sovereign eyeAs I stood singing, letting the words of this new song begin to fit together like a puzzle piece in my mind, a sense of remembrance came up within me. It was that feeling that something you are experiencing now is much like something you have experienced before. As the congregation stood repeating the chorus, I realized that this was the message that Sister Chris shared with me nearly two years ago on my first visit for spiritual direction at the Blessed Trinity Shrine Retreat in Fort Mitchell. It is also what she shared with Epworth last Fall when she preached. We are the joy of God. God delights in us. We are God's beloved.
When the song was over, Andy said what I was thinking: we don't hear this message enough. We don't hear the plain truth that God loves us and delights in us. We are the apple of God's eye. Some people have never heard that, some have forgotten it and many just misunderstand God's relationship with us. Sister Chris shared with me an excerpt of Henri Nouwen's book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. In the book, Nouwen describes the void that our misunderstanding has created:
Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: 'May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.' But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.No one thing can satisfy the longing, no single product or moment can fill the void; except for the One who is True. The older I get the more I wonder if maybe this should be the only message we preach and the only melody we sing. God loves us. In Christ I'm free, from guilt and shame. I am fully known and fully loved.
Grace and Peace, Scott