“The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.” – R.T. Kendall
When I look at the big comfy couch and overstuffed armchair here in my living room, I think of open-hearted conversations with friends. I think of the times people have trusted me with their stories as we sat on sofas covered in white brocade, brown leather, floral print (like this one at Karen’s cottage) or, in student days, something that looked even worse than the army blanket covering it.
Many times friends gave me the chance to be unguarded as I offered them the same privilege. We laughed, cried, challenged and encouraged each other. I welcome unadorned truth from friends close enough to genuinely care and who can extend me the same grace they have received from the Lord. Other than the entryway, where the deepest conversations seem to be accompanied by one hand on the door knob, the couch has been the location of most spirit to spirit connection in my life.
Recently my friend, Christine, who is a lyricist and composer, sat on the couch and shared some of her insights into Psalm 25. She is writing a series of songs based on the Psalms. She’s amazing. Each week we meet to compare what impacts us most about one of our favourite books in the Bible.
This psalm has been one of my favourite since I listened to a young missionary’s story. She told us what a verse in Psalm 25 meant to her when she was isolated in a strange culture and unable to communicate because of her struggles with the language. Disappointment crippled her for a while until desperation led her spend her lonely hours with no one but God. In the quietness the Lord let her know He was not disappointed. He loved her heart. He loved spending time with her. Her future was also His present. He revealed his secrets.
The portion she shared was this, verse 14: The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant. (NASB)
“Did you know the root word in Hebrew for secret can mean a couch?” the songwriter asked as she rummaged through her file looking for the draft of her new song.
“Couch. Like the kind they reclined on to eat or like pillows on the floor of the tent.”
I looked it up. Yes, cowd can mean couch. Some translators use the word friendship or counsel there.
I looked at my worn couch and remembered times of intimate conversation with friends I could trust.
“I like that image!” I said. “Just sitting with the Lord on the couch with a pot of tea like this in front of us. Nothing to hide that He doesn’t already know about. Chatting about movies and gardening and children and the eternal repercussions of imminent decisions. Listening to Him talk about what moves His heart and getting excited about His plans. Drinking in encouragement and listening to how He sees me and who He says I am…”
The God of my childhood was a distant, disapproving anxiety-inspiring god. When we prayed at family devotions we changed our tone of voice and even the type of language we used, lest we offend Him. He seemed inclined to prefer 17th century English. It felt to me like we were trying to impress Him and vainly hoped He was oblivious to the tone and language we had just used with each other as we fought over space in front of the bathroom sink. I couldn’t imagine Him wanting to be my friend or seeing me as anything other than a disappointment.
When I dared to believe He wanted to communicate with me I started going on walks and talking to Him as if He was someone who cared about the trivia of my day. After a while I learned to be quiet and just enjoy His presence. As I waited I began to realize that He had been communicating all along – and He was not like the God I had been introduced to before.
An article I read this week noted that in Jesus’ wilderness time the first thing the enemy attacked was His identity – right after the Father confirmed publicly that Jesus was His beloved son in whom He was well pleased.
Why are we so surprised when the same thing happens to us? Often after we begin to hear God telling us who we are in Christ an old voice posing the oldest question in the world approaches, “Did God really say….”
In the secret place God tells us how He sees us, how we are known in heaven, how He loves us. It is the safest place in the world, the place where we become secure in our identity. Insecurity leads to competitiveness, lack of joy in others successes and a vulnerability to seductive voices offering us shortcuts. Insecurity is rooted in shame — a fear that people will discover who we really are – and a sense that who we really are is not alright. When we are secure in His love and in our true identity in Christ we have nothing to prove. Holy Spirit invites us to sit with him and concentrate on His voice.
In the secret place, the friendship place, the place of counsel, He will reveal his promises to you.
Guard my soul and deliver me;
Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
My friend placed the music of her new song on the piano and began to softly play and sing the refrain:
Let us find the quiet place where we seek Your precious Face,
Let us find the quiet place where You speak to us of grace,
Let us find the quiet place where we enter Your embrace,
Let us seek Ruah God and His love.
Let us find the quiet place where we gaze upon Your Face
Let us find the quiet place where we hear You speak of grace,
Let us find the quiet place where we feel Your warm embrace
Let us seek Ruah God and His love.
– Christine Morton (copyright 2016)