as the deer 

I was not expecting Cameron Park when I moved to Waco. I’ve posted about it before (here!), but this past Saturday I went on a walk with my sister and I was just reminded again of  special way in which nature can point you back to the Creator.

When I was much much younger, one of the first songs for which I learned harmony from the 80s, called ‘As the Deer’. It’s based off of Psalm 42:1-2, and the lyrics are so simply beautiful:

“As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee. You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship Thee. You alone are my strength, my shield. To you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship Thee. You’re my friend and You are my brother, even though You are a king. I love you more than any other, so much more than anything.”

The man who wrote it (story here) never intended to share the simple melody, just wrote down his prayer for a strong strong relationship with Jesus. It’s a prayer that so many people resonate with; I’ve even written about this concept before, of finding your everything in Christ, and finding your expectation in Him. But I think this goes beyond that.

Is your heart’s desire for God?

Not in what He can do for you, or what you can do for Him (guilty). Not in the strong sense of community you experience in your small group, or the warm feeling from serving in kids ministry (guilty and guilty). Not in a particularly convicting message, or an immediately answered prayer.

What if instead of longing for disciplines or sacraments, we longed for communion?

See, those of us who have walked with Jesus for a while, we know what to do. When we feel spiritually starved, we open our Bible; when thirsty, we pray. We pull out devotionals and call friends asking for prayer. We become vulnerable and open with our struggles, we share with people who we know will support us. We switch our radios over and only listen to K-Love for a week or so, until it passes.

But what if we never let ourselves thirst.

What if we were so hydrated, so saturated in the Word of God, in the goodness of His character, the depths of His mercy, the boundless bounty of His love? What if we didn’t reach for our Bibles as the result of trial, but we longed for the heart of God before trials.

We know how to arm ourselves for spiritual warfare, but we sometimes wind up in battles that we needn’t have wandered into.

Say you have a houseplant. You stick it in an open window, spritz it with some water. Time goes on. You notice it’s not doing so well, so you dunk it in water, and nervously wait to see if it’ll pull through. And it usually will. But that’s not the life Christians are called to.

Consider, instead, a tree by a river. It doesn’t go through these periods of neglect and drought, but instead sips steadily from the stream. It doesn’t deal with extremes—sometimes watered, sometimes dry—it just constantly draws life from the water. Yes, both plants will flower. Both will grow and both will mature. But which would you rather be?

If you let me anthropomorphize that tree, just for a moment, by the river. It’s not waking up one day thinking ‘I need water, I need water, I need water, lest I die’. It draws from the river without thinking. It knows its strength isn’t in its boughs, but in the water that brings it life.

What if we ran to Jesus not in times of trial, not in temptations, not in heartache, what if we ran to Him for life. If every day, every moment, every action was so marked by the presence of God. If nearness to our Savior was so instinctual that separation brought instant longing.

And you know what blows my mind?

That He wants that with me. My Savior, my Creator, my Protection, My Jesus, He wants that closeness. Just let that sink it for a moment.

Psalm 42 does not end on as hopeful a note as it starts on. The Psalmist is well aware that he is surrounded by enemies who revile him and doubt his God. His closing prayer is just as beautiful though: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

We don’t just seek Him in praise; we don’t just seek Him in petition. We seek Him in life.

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