Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
I was listening to Christian radio today, which isn’t a usual thing for me as I’ve never been much of a listener of any type of radio. As I listened to a few songs, I recalled why I don’t listen to large amounts of new worship music. All of these songs sound the same, I thought to myself. And it wasn’t just the repetitious melodies I’d heard a hundred times, it was the words themselves. So many of the lines were cut right out of one song and pasted right into another.
This isn’t a criticism of Christian music, though I’m sure many can be made. And why wouldn’t these songs be the same? On some level, they are all from the same source material. Taking my experience today, and thinking of all the worship songs I know, I realized that the landscape of CCM (contemporary Christian music) that is not watered down to suit such a broad demographic of people is consistent in one thing: boldly asking God to ruin us.
I remember shortly after I got my first car. It had been a stressful weekend, with both my Dad and my grandma sent to the hospital. So I decided to go visit them, by myself.
As I pulled onto I-85, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and wasn’t paying attention and this big truck barreled into the lane I was trying to get in. I swerved to miss him, spinning across three lanes of traffic in my small Ford Taurus.
Dizzy and horrified at the crunch I’d just heard, I stumbled out of the car on wobbling legs. Somehow, I’d avoided hitting any other car and landed safely against the guardrail in a cloud of dust and broken pieces of my bumpers. Both of them.
Maybe I didn’t know it then, but in those moments, God was beginning the process of breaking me, of wrecking me like I wrecked my car.
I realize that in postmodern Christian circles, it has become fashionable to make statements like that. I can’t tell you how many times while I was in college I heard phrases like:
“Wreck me, God!”
“Tear me apart, Jesus.”
“God, come break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”
Christians like that language because it jolts us out of our preconceived notions of who God is and what he’s doing in the world around us. It takes us out of our familiarity with the faith that many of us grew up with. I remember hearing those exact words in college many times, and I remember saying them myself.
And, as much as I have, in the past, tried to disassociate with clichés associated with the emergent church as well as the traditional church, there is a truth about God and a truth about ourselves that cuts deeply into the heart of what those musicians are trying to say.
See, often we pray bold prayers and sing bold songs and ask God to turn everything that we have done, will do, and everything that we are on its head. We ask him to search us and know us and illuminate our wickedness and help us to repent of our sins and follow him “in the way everlasting.”
But do we, frail humans, really want that?
Do I want to be wrecked?
If I answer honestly, the answer is a deep and resounding no.
Do I need to be?
My head was still spinning. My vision was still blurry and I could just barely make out two people shaped blobs walking toward me. As they got closer, I could hear them asking if I was okay. They’d seen the car spinning into the guardrail and called the police to come help. Their accents were thick and German, so I didn’t catch everything they said. But they did say that they would pray for me. And then they got back in their car and left.
I fumbled for my phone and pressed in the number for my Mom. Through tears, I told her what happened and she told me to stay calm. Stay calm? Stay calm? My 16 year old self had a finely tuned script for his own melodrama conveniently stashed in his back pocket for such an occasion. And calm was the last thing on his mind!
Luckily for me, my belief in a God who gives us what we need, rather than what we want overrules my imperfections and lack of trust. But I cannot honestly say it doesn’t sting to pray bold prayers like that. And I cannot honestly say that it is my natural inclination to do so.
Naturally, I am prone to seek my own good above everyone else’s.
I am prone to make surrender a worst-case scenario.
I am prone to forget that when God “wrecks” me, it will hurt. It will be uncomfortable. It will not always present itself in the most convenient times of my life. But, in the end. It will be worth it.
So what I pray for those who sing the songs I heard on the radio today, and for all of those who sing them in church or in their cars or wherever else, is that they would truly think about those words.
Am I truly believing God will sometimes use me in ways that might run counter to my deepest wants? Am I really admitting that what I desire doesn’t always matter most? Am I, though it may be uncomfortable, really ready to boldly ask God to give me what I need, rather than what I want?
And most importantly, is Christ himself central to who I am as an individual? So much so that if everything I had were ripped away, could I still sing bold declarations of his love and faithfulness? Would I still trust him then?
So, obviously, I survived. I drove that car through my first or second year of college, bumpers on the verge of falling off and all. It survived. I survived. God was faithful. God is faithful. And that experience taught me a lot about not only mortality, but about trusting him despite the frailty of my life. About how we’re not promised tomorrow. About living every day to make Christ known above all else.
That was seven years ago, and I am not done learning those lessons. May I give God the glory for every rescue, every victory. And I will boldly shout that Jesus is the only desirable thing in me. May he be the one thing I desire. The one thing in this life I will always trust. My confidence and my life.
Because even when I am faithless, he is faithful.