Monday, March 4, 2013

Contentment as Worship

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that the following passage from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs took my fancy:
By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to him. It is a special part of the divine worship that we owe to God, to be content in a Christian way, as has been shown to you. I say it is a special part of the divine worship that the creature owes to the infinite Creator, in that I tender the respect that is due from me to the Creator. The word that the Greeks have that signifies, 'to worship' is the same as to come and crouch before someone, as if a dog should come crouching to you, and be willing to lie down at your feet.
So the creature in the apprehension of its own baseness, and the infinite excellence that is in God above it, when it comes to worship God, comes and crouches to this God, and lies down at the feet of God: then the creature worships God. When you see a dog come crouching to you, and by holding your hand over him, you can make him lie down at your feet, then consider, thus should you do before the Lord: you should come crouching to him, and lie down at his feet, even on your backs or bellies, to lie down in the dust before him so as to be willing that he should do with you what he will. Just as sometimes you may turn a dog this way or that way, up and down, with your hand, and there he lies before you, according to your showing him with your hand; so when the creature shall come and lie down thus before the Lord, then a creature worships God and tenders the worship that is due to him.
Modesty is, well, not his middle name.
 Now in what disposition of heart do we thus crouch to God more than when we have this state of contentment in all the conditions that God disposes us to? This is the crouching to God's disposal, to be like the poor woman of Canaan, who when Christ said, 'It is not fit to give children's meat to dogs', said 'The dogs have crumbs', I am a dog I confess, but let me have only a crumb. And so when the soul shall be in such a disposition as to lie down and say, 'Lord, I am but as a dog, yet let me have a crumb', then it highly honors God. It may be that some of you have not your table spread as others have, but God gives you crumbs; now, says the poor woman, dogs have crumbs, and when you can find your hearts thus submitting to God, to be but as a dog, and can be contented and bless God for any crumb, I say this is a great worship of God (Kindle location 1540).
Ebony supplies plentiful living illustrations to accompany these words, but for some reason most of them are in my mind, not the computer. I see him live this out many times a day, every day. What strikes me about the posture described is that, at least for Ebony, it reflects not only submission, but even more notably affection and trust.

Frequently he stretches himself out in this manner, in a straight line from his muzzle to the tip of his tail, body pressed flat into the carpet, across the threshold of the bathroom door while I get ready to leave the house for an appointment. He loves the treats I carry in my pocket at all times his mama, and he tends to follow me around the house, just to be where I am. If a soft chair is available, he prefers that, but if not, he is very likely at my feet.

When he feels most safe and secure, and only with those he trusts implicitly, he not only lies down but lies down on his back, which seems the most vulnerable posture a dog could adapt. If we move too quickly or move from rubbing his belly into anything approaching grooming, the moment is lost and he turns right side up again. He held so much fear when he first came to us nearly 5 years ago; when he exposes his belly now in trust that we will not do him harm, it blesses me. It shows his faith in me.

Last night, or rather this morning, at 3:30 when sleep fled again, I remembered these thoughts and, in my spirit, lay down at my Master's feet. I am weary. My family is weary. Physical therapy continues on for at least 2 more weeks, along with other appointments and home and family responsibilities. My back and ankle have improved somewhat, but neither is at full strength or pain-free yet. Last week's cold lingers on in a nighttime cough. There are at least two significant other issues besides health concerns which weigh on my heart but are not mine to share here. Sleep entices as a brief forgetfulness, recovery time to face the next day's challenges, but for more than a month now, consistent sleep has proved even more elusive than usual. And I'm all too prone to whine about it.

So last night when I woke and could not sleep again, I remembered this passage from my bedtime reading and decided to lie at my Lord's feet and expose these vulnerable places to Him. I told Him that I was doing everything in my knowledge and responsibility to obey Him and steward my body with rest, and it wasn't working. If He had some other agenda for those night watches, so be it. He'd just better show up with His power that much more to enable me to do what He gives me to do the next day.

Friends, I still pray that perhaps tonight would be the night restorative sleep returns, but if not, may the Lord grant me the grace of a contented, trusting, devoted heart even in long, wakeful nights. May He unfold to you as well more of the worship of a contented heart.

::Blessing Him for the crumbs He gives, the bitter and the sweet::
the Lord who never slumbers or sleeps::His presence with me in the dark::weary days and nights::improvement in upper respiratory infection::nurses' phone lines for questions::a shift in focus from ankle to upper body in physical therapy::the decompression machine still helping::short walks some days::a happy, unexpected change of plans::celebrating Mezzo's birthday Friday night at an excellent restaurant new to us::naps Sunday afternoon::seeing and hearing Mezzo shine at a private recital she gave Sunday evening::Steinway Hall::sisters (and Allen) sharing supper afterward::brother-in-law taking full responsibility for the nephews so youngest sister could come::my parents' car again for yet another tricky scheduling week::leisurely phone visit with Nonni yesterday::reading about the life of Van Cliburn, who died last week, and remembering the joy of seeing him perform live *twice*::breaking news: Mezzo passed her pre-recital "hearing" in front of the voice faculty!
(gratitude journal #9501-9519)

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