More on that in a minute.
“Have you seen a fish swimming?” Sally Lloyd-Jones asks in her wonderful devotional book for kids (and big kids like me). “It dives, darts, glides, turns, flashes through the water. A fish was made for water. That’s its natural habitat—the place where it belongs.
And the Bible says we were made for God—to be loved by him and to love him. That’s where we belong.” (“Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing,” p. 62)
It seems to me the greatest tragedy of the fall that we now fear the One in whom alone we are free. We’ve forgotten who we are and where we belong, forgotten that we were made by God's love, for this love, and, whether we’re aware of it or not, that we live surrounded by this love.
When I encountered Wesley's prayer four years ago my own praying of it was mostly an asking to be made able to pray it. This time around, though some lines are still harder to pray than others, the prayer tastes of freedom and joy, like a gentle hand picking me from the riverbank where I’ve been flopping and gasping, and setting me back in the river where I find myself free to swim and work and play with a remarkable joy and energy—because I’m not trying to flop and wiggle my way to the top of the riverbank.
What has changed? Maybe just this: God and I have been through the cycle enough times—me falling apart, him bringing me close and gently loving me back together again—that my heart is finally starting to believe that He really loves me. That I can trust Him.
"I am no longer my own but yours."
It’s the simple gospel truth for all of us who belong to Jesus, and it’s such good news! I don’t have to carry the burden of providing for myself, figuring out my minute-by-minute schedule, or trying to manage my future (Matt 6:25-34). Someone who dearly loves me is always looking out for me. As the hymn writer said, “The protection of his child and treasure is a charge that on himself he laid.” On himself. Not on me.
"Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will."
I was never meant to be the one to determine my status, my significance, or my daily occupation.
"Put me to doing, put me to suffering,
Let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you."
I keep thinking about the viola dream and how I’m made to be played, not to play myself. Sometimes there’s energy and my strings resonate to His touch, and then the energy’s gone and it feels like God has gently laid me back in the case to rest a while. And both—the good, hard work, and the gentle rest—can be equally lovely when I don’t fight them. . . when I don’t presume I’m failing and God is disappointed with me. “Put me to what you will. . . . Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you.” When I’ve prayed these words at the start of the day and God chooses to place me back in the case and invite me to rest, there’s peace there, and joy. And when he gives me work different than I’d planned, that’s okay too. He’s the musician and when I remember that I’m just the instrument it can even be fun when He plays a tune other than the one I was expecting.
"Let me be full, let be empty."
When I’m full I can celebrate—He is filling me with Himself!—and pour that fullness out in love. And when I’m empty at the end of a day of writing, or when I wake empty and unable to write, that isn’t something I need to fight or fix either, just delight in His welcome to come close and enjoy resting in His love.
"Let me have all things, let me have nothing."
This is one of those lines I still find it hard to pray. I don’t want all things—that seems too great a burden. I don’t want to have nothing either. But I’m pretty sure that there’s a freedom in this line as great as in all the others so I’m asking God to set me free to honestly pray it.
"I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, blessed and glorious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And may the covenant now made on earth be ratified in heaven. Amen."
This fish wants to dart and dance and shout "yes, yes!" and "thank you!" in fish-language, and get on with the joy of being a fish in water.