“If all I loved was stripped away, what would my life be defined by?” The haunting question whispered through my soul, chasing me in my dreams at night and finding me on the path I took to avoid it during the day. Such a question was too painful to face. “If all I loved…”
Finally, I stopped, and faced my fears, ashamed that it had taken me so long. “I’m sorry Father! It’s just so hard to answer a question like that! I love much! I love You most of all! You know that.”
“Ah, my daughter! You do love much, and so I’ll ask you again, if all you loved was stripped away, if I took it away, what would your life be defined by?”
To be crucified with Christ in daily sanctification is the agony and the glory of the Christian’s life. Such a process of being transformed and renewed into His perfect image is often painful, as day by day the Master Artisan chips away at our sinful habits and desires, and plunges us into the fires of refinement until all God sees when He looks at us is a reflection of His Son.
Sometimes, those of us who have been in the shop for a while can drift into a spiritual plane and begin to think that it is over, but I have been in the Master’s workshop for twelve years now, and can testify that the refining never ceases. Such was the case a few months ago when God pressed that question into my heart. I was forced to take a good look at my life and see that yes, I loved Him, but other things had crept in and stolen the sweet communion that we used to have when He was my First Joy and True Love.
Time is precious, and yet I wasted it on things that were temporal, such as adventure novels, social networking, and improving my self-image. Even things that were considered important by all, such as college studies, my writing, and hobbies, began to take preeminence. Family and friends consumed my thoughts. I read my Bible studiously, but took little away from it. Prayer time was essential, but not a true encounter with the Living God. Suffice it to say, I did love much, but not what was vital or best.
Then, perhaps to encourage me, God began showing me others who have walked the path before me, simple men and women from His Story, who lost all and found Him to be sufficient.
I met Joseph, son of Jacob, who was treated unjustly by his brothers, sold as a slave into a foreign land, falsely accused by his master’s wife, and thrown into prison. This was a perfect occasion to grow bitter and angry, right? Not Joseph. He spurned evil, showed true integrity, remained tender towards God, and when given the opportunity to revenge himself on those who had hurt him, forgave them instead, stating, “…Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good…to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
I met Hadassah-Esther, adopted daughter of Mordecai, orphan, and citizen of a captive nation. When politics in the land required a new queen, she was chosen from among hundreds in a beauty contest, and married to the pagan king. Her beauty made her queen but it was her loyalty to Mordecai and her courage that is remembered, as she risked her life to save her people when their total existence was threatened by Haman. Her famous words, “I will go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish,” resonate with a self-sacrifice rarely, if ever, seen anymore. (Esther 4:16)
I met Jeremiah, the prophet, who was called as a child to speak God’s words to a disobedient nation. Commanded to give up his betrothed, disregarded and scorned by the people, cast in a miry dungeon, and starved, he endured untold loneliness and grief for God’s sake. He preached tirelessly every word that God said, and was upheld by God’s promise, “…They shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail…for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” (Jeremiah 1:18)
I met Mary, fiancée of Joseph, virgin, simple village girl. Hailed by an angel one extraordinary day, and given an impossible job—that of bearing in her body the Son of God. Knowing her whole life would be turned upside down, that people would think the worst and misunderstand, she nevertheless humbled herself and obediently said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)
Last of all, I saw Jesus the Messiah in a fresh light, as the King’s Son, Who left the splendor of Heaven to come down into a wicked world, to bear witness of the truth, and to save all who come unto Him. By His death, we are made alive. By His sacrifice, we are given salvation. By His surrender, we find victory.
I was beginning to understand.
The heroes and heroines of the faith were not made great by what they kept but by what they gave. They are remembered not for all they lost, but for what they gained through finding their lives defined by Christ.
I longed for such a relationship, where He was all, and where nothing of me was left but what He had made new. I longed to have Him be the breadth and the sum total of my life.
“Give me your life, Daughter. Everything you love, give it to me.”
“Yes, Father, everything.”
“You’re still holding something back. I want everything.”
“Yes, Father. Here, you can have it. You can have it all.”
“I was waiting for complete surrender, because, My Precious Daughter, here is all I have for you: My love, My peace, freedom, joy, everlasting contentment, victory over sin, patience in trials, and courage in adversity. Here, let me open wide my treasury of blessings. Open your heart and I will fill it with my goodness. Abide in me; let your life be defined by My grace. Let your life be defined by Me.”
“…I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Dear Brothers and Sisters-in-Christ, I ask you, what is your life defined by?