I came across this prayer from the Puritan book “The Valley of Vision” this week over on Justin Taylor’s blog, and it has spoken really powerfully to how I’ve been feeling lately:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
that every good work or thought found in me
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.
Sometimes as Christians it’s all too easy to fool ourselves and each other that all is fine, that we’re all basically doing alright, until we all appear so “sorted” that we’re each afraid to admit to the other just how desperately messy our lives are and how much life really gets us down. Well, this week God has really reminded me that that’s not Christianity – far from it. True Christianity is a message about a saviour who came to a people who were far from sorted – why else would they need rescuing? God didn’t send his son lightly – he sent him because there was no other way: we cannot fix ourselves or dig ourselves out of this hole we’re in. Our sin is too severe for that – too all encompassing and destructive. Even if we were to build for ourselves a perfect world, our sin would keep us from enjoying it – why, even the good already in this world I can’t seem to appreciate without screwing it up somehow or other. Yet Jesus came as the rescuer who reaches out with open arms to pull us from the miry bog and out of the clutches of the tangled weeds of sin. He DIED for my sin and PAID the price. In him I am made perfect even whilst I am yet such a messy work-in-progress. And at the very point where I am brought so low by awareness of my sin and my helplessness that I can barely dare to hope that Jesus would want me – in the valley, so to speak – that is where I find the vantage point I need to see things clearly, that is where I feel my need keenly enough to cry out, and so the broken heart becomes the healed heart.
In the words of Horatio Spafford:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!