Be Thou Exalted

Be Thou Exalted October 22, 2013

I found a truly heart-wrenching prayer in A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. Chapter eight discusses why we will never know peace until we set our compass by an accurate source of direction. All else will be skewed lest we see it from the only correct vantage point — that is The Creator of All, The One Who Was, Who Is and Whoever Shall Be. Tozer reminds us that knowing the correct way to see life and actually seeing life correctly are not one in the same, “Millions call themselves by His Name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.” As I examine myself through this test, my own false god becomes as clear. What do I fear more than God? What has kept my happiness in bondage? What is the one thing I really, really, really don’t want to surrender?

My conception was not planned. My story is one of those stories people like to scare teenagers with: no matter how many preventative measures a couple make take, there is always tiny percentage of pregnancies that still occur. That is me. My folks didn’t plan to have more children for the foreseeable future, but there I was; a lima bean with a beating heart. They are pro-life, so they didn’t really have much of a choice. Halfway through the pregnancy, the ultrasound tech declared me to be a male, which was exciting to my parents because they already had two girls. Months later, I was born 30 minutes after my due date had passed — a girl. I’d barely drawn a breath before I was a disappointment. An unwanted development. Already out of place. I was quiet as a child, content to be the third, content to blend in.  But by the time I hit 13, it was obvious that blending in was not God’s plan for me. I was awkward, opinionated and so very, very lonely. I had friends, but one by one, they were taken away from me. Some of the breach in friendships were rather abrupt and cruel, and still others quite violent. As an adult, I became painfully aware that if I could just act “normal”, I could have as many “friends” as my heart desired. I tried, but I never felt at peace or very fulfilled. When you withhold a fundamental part of your soul, communion is always incomplete. And just as before, the looming terror of being the odd one out and all alone haunted me. It’s exhausting to keep up a charade no matter how much you desire to. My fears were marginally eased in marriage. I am myself with my husband and he has to stick by me, right? My parents bitterly divorced after 29 years of marriage and 6 children. I am still occasionally debilitated  by fear of history repeating itself.  God is jealous. He has a way of obliterating other gods and my idolatry isn’t something He is willing to compete with. You see, my whole life I’ve had a false god that I have been paying homage to: the idol of approval from mankind. It has been easily disguised: everyone wants friends, fellowship is a gift, friends are a gift from God. But as we all know, anything can become an idol. When we take the gifts God gives us and exalt them over the Giver, our blessings become curses and where there are curses, no peace is to be found. In all my striving for approval from my companions, I was abusing the gift of companionship. I had traded honoring the approval of my God for seeking approval from His creations. It is an abomination — a kind of living blasphemy — it’s the stuff that will keep a girl in bondage to hopeless anxiety.

Today I am thanking God. He has been merciful with me. He is revealing my sins out of kindness and love to me. My idol has been destroying me. As it turns out, the weight of sin is heavier than the weight of glory. “Anyone who might feel reluctant to surrender his will to the will of another should remember Jesus’ words, ‘Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.’ We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. The sinner prides himself on his independence, completely overlooking the fact that he is a weak slave of the sins that rule his members. The man who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave driver for a kind and gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.” 

Now that I have identified (one of?) my false idol(s), will I be able to de-throne it easily? Of course not. It has been apart of me for as long as I can remember. This is going to hurt, but it won’t kill me in the same way it would if I didn’t amputate it. Does this mean I will suddenly become popular and have friends galore? Probably not, especially as we are continually reminded that God’s ways are decidedly not the ways of man. But God is the Perfect Father. He hasn’t left me alone to fight this battle — He hasn’t left me alone at all. Him revealing this to me today is a testament of that. Undoubtedly, He has demonstrated great compassion in revealing my idolatry without taking away my husband, children and ALL my family and friends as I deserve.

Now as I wrestle with my failures, when I am tempted to waver in doubt of the worthwhileness of the fight, I can remember and then remind God of His promises. In the Bible, God invariably takes down those who defy Him, but look at the examples of imperfect men who honestly tried to glorify God, “See how God winked at weaknesses and overlooked failures as He poured upon His servants grace and blessing untold…The man of God set his heart to exalt God above all; God accepted his intention as fact and acted accordingly. Not perfection, but holy intention made the difference.”  The One True God never changes. What was true for my name sake, Abraham, is true for me:  God was patient with Abraham, so God will be patient with Abra. God was merciful to Abraham, so God will be merciful to Abra. God poured out blessings upon Abraham so I can be confident that, so long as I am honestly seeking after Him, He will pour out blessings on me despite my shortcomings.  I feel overwhelmed now, but not for long. I am trading in the burden of trying to please everyone for the mission of pleasing The One. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  I have sinned grievously. For a lifetime I have actively dethroned The Almighty God — but, glory be to that same Almighty God,  my penance has already been served. Indeed, my debt was paid before He knit me together in my mother’s womb.  God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, took my sins along with the rest of the world’s sins upon Himself and paid our price, freeing us from destruction.  All I need do now is own up to what I have done, humble myself and do my very best to sin no more.

~Prayer~

“O God, be thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase, let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, ‘Hosanna in the highest.'” 


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