Cornerstone

"When it comes to battling this self-manufactured 'distance' from God, we need all the help we can get."

I have a daughter who I suspect actually has bubble solution flowing through her veins instead of blood. She is fun, creative, talkative, and constantly moving from one imaginary scenario to the next. It can be hard to get her to focus on present realities.

It is usually when she knows there are things that need to be done that we see her most purposeful mental wandering. While some might call this laziness or selective hearing or even disobedience - and yes, it’s a little of all those things - her wandering also stems from a place of willful obliviousness.

Which is kind of a weird phrase, right? Willful obliviousness. An oxymoron. How could someone *strive* to be unaware or ignorant? Yet it totally makes sense when you think about it. It especially, sadly, makes sense to me when I see it paralleled in my own spiritual life.

Let’s just say I share my daughter’s tendency to wander, only I don’t have that same childlike bubble solution in my veins anymore. Now, as an adult, I am able to tuck this habit neatly inside my head, so my laziness, selective hearing and disobedience aren’t quite so visible on the outside anymore.

But they are visible to the Lord.

And if I think my daughter’s behavior can be frustrating, how much more must mine be to Him? I have even had the audacity, when I finally decide that I’m ready to put the welcome mat back out on our relationship, to ask Him recklessly, “Lord, where have you been?!” Only to have His answer come back, gentle yet piercing -- “Where have you been?”

These are the times I hear a melody playing on repeat in my head, specifically the one that goes along with the lines, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love!”

Oh how easy it is to wander, to turn our backs on Him...and then to choose to ignore that we even feel it. Especially when we know there are things that need to be done.

When it comes to battling this self-manufactured “distance” from God, we need all the help we can get. Alongside prayer and reading the Bible and engaging in community, J. Oswald Sanders suggested that the devotional use of hymns could be another way to gain a “deeper, more intimate knowledge of God.” He said, “God has given the church gifted hymn writers to help His less gifted children pour out their worship and praise, and we can take their words and make them our own.”

There is perhaps no better song on the subject of wandering than “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson. So let’s meditate on this hymn, which is the source of the lyrics I mentioned above. I hope it can serve as a sort of three-step prescription for a closer relationship with God.

 

Step 1: Focus

 

 

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.”

 

Here we begin with a direct plea to the source of all gifts to help us make our thanksgiving more precise. And He is not only the source of all gifts, but is also simultaneously pouring out a ceaseless surge of mercy on our behalf. This is overwhelming and we must be taught the appropriate response.

But we can’t do that when we’re looking around at all the world’s distractions. So for me, “tuning my heart to sing Thy grace” looks like a daily prioritization shift. A regular putting-down-of-the-phone and stepping-away-from-the-computer. These things are masters of interference, thorny and dangerous when placed into the hands of anyone who is prone to just moseying along.

Only when they are put in their place - below, out of sight, away - routinely! - am I able to engage in focused praise and worship that is truly worthy of Him. Otherwise I get trapped into marching through the day, sending up vaguely thankful thoughts whenever it’s convenient for me, or worse, turning away from Him and His gifts because whatever’s happening on Facebook is more important.

Being “fixed upon the mount” looks like giving thanks continuously, specifically and purposefully, no matter what; this is the antithesis of just moseying along.

 

Step 2: Remember

 

 

“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’m come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.”

 

This figurative Ebenezer is a reference to 1 Samuel 7, in which Samuel sets out a stone monument to remember the Lord’s protection over His people in enabling the Israelites to defeat the Philistines.

Whatever helps us remember, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12) is worth dwelling on. Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry or some other memento. For me, a tattoo I have serves as a permanent stamp of my deliverance. While I got it before I was a believer, it is a constant, unavoidable visual of God’s mercy.

Now I’m not saying we should all go out and tat it up, or that the whole concept of an Ebenezer is necessarily about dwelling in the past. But when we face an enemy who endlessly schemes to make us forget God - in a world that tells us to solely rely on ourselves - it is good to have something tangible we can intentionally turn to that reminds us of God’s power, provision and kept promises in our lives.

While we can reference these bookmarks in our life stories often, “Come Thou Fount” also emphasizes that Jesus, who “interposed His precious blood,” is the ultimate placeholder! His substitutionary sacrifice - the cross - should be our #1 Ebenezer.

 

Step 3: Surrender

 

 

“O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let that grace now like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”

 

I love the wording here. Debtor, constrained, fettered, bound. But all of it uttered as a plea of longing, from a place of willing submission.

We see the opposite scene in “The Wanderer,” a 1960’s anthem by Dion. Sure, that wanderer guy might sound so free, like he’s having such a great time, careless and happy and kissing all the girls. But eventually, tellingly, he says, “I’m going nowhere.”

Is there a worse feeling than that? Directionlessness? It’s strange how it can sound so attractive sometimes. But there is true freedom in yielding, in obedience, in shackling ourselves to the only one going anywhere worth going. Let’s be captured by God’s grace and see what happens when we get there! (I think it might be called “glory.”)

So the next time you find yourself wandering and oblivious, whether it be intentional or incidental, I hope some of these ideas from “Come Thou Fount” will help you recognize it. Close the gap and draw near to God again by removing distractions and focusing your praise; purposefully remember when and how He has shown up for you; and beg to live a life of surrender in response to His grace.

 

listen to the song

Amy Carbo

Amy is a member of Cornerstone, Wife to Dan, and mother to Penn, Indie, and Cali.

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