If you can fight your way through all the ads and eye-catchers, here's a reminder of Dave Bryant's song Jesus Take Me As I Am.
What brought it especially to my mind is the part asking God to make me like a pure, precisely cut crystal through which the light of Jesus can shine clearly.
Thinking of that song reminds me of a man I met when (a long time ago now) I and a handful of friends had the privilege of going each week to join in the Christian fellowship group at a prison a few miles along the coast.
As new men came into the prison and wanted to join the group, the first attendance of each was very revealing. Some came in quietly, desiring self-effacement. Others came in with swagger and loud bravado, obviously stretched thin by life and afraid of being seen and known. One man came at first unkempt and hostile, principally to gibe and sneer, but ended up being the most eager in the waiting queue, having showered and combed his hair ready for the weekly meeting now held precious because there he was accepted and loved. I remember forming a completely wrong impression of one man the first time I saw him. With a wickedly disarming smile and a cheeky line of humour he chatted and befriended us. Then we settled down to worship, and he spoke up to request (I remember it still, 30 years on!) No 136. I thought it would be some kind of joke - like the times men asked innocently to sing It only takes a spark to get a fire going (!)
But he was not joking. The song he requested was 'Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me' - and he meant it too. That made me stop and think. He was someone I grew to love and respect, for he was Christ's man, a most gentle and beautiful friend of Jesus, for all he'd made mistakes in life and done wrong things, ended up in prison. The Lord had lifted him. "Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me; my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).
The memories of those songs that have meant so much to me all came flooding back as I meditated on a short phrase I came across in Cynthia Keller's excellent novel An Amish Christmas, which I have been so enjoying reading in the last few days.
The phrase, ESSE QUAM VIDERI, quoted from Cicero, is apparently the motto of the state of North Carolina, and it means not 'eat until you are sick' (as you might at first think) but TO BE RATHER THAN TO SEEM TO BE. It is the focal theme of the novel as the story unfolds and, ever since I read them, the words have been on my heart and on my mind.
People often describe me as 'transparent' and believe me to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person; and I guess that's true up to a point. What you see is what you get - but I do select very carefully what I allow you to see; and I think that's prudent. Letting it all hang out is rarely wise and never lovely to behold.
But that means what I seem to be and what I am are often two different things. They have to be. I speak and write what I believe regardless of whether I achieve it, and that's my intention. I want to point your thinking toward the truth I believe in, not the depressing shortcomings of the way I live it.
A few weeks ago I listened to a friend teaching about some religious belief that God forgives only three times (not his own belief - he was teaching about a tradition). I hope that tradition is wrong. Tonight as I came into the quietness and peace of my room to let God's gaze of love search my heart at the end of the day (and don't run away with the idea I'm a holy mystic vigiling my way through the night, I did this for about five minutes), I had to say sorry once again for moaning and whingeing and gumbling and complaining and being unfair and unkind about other people. This is what I said sorry for yesterday too. Maybe it will be the last time and I will never need to say sorry for it again, but somehow I can't help thinking....
I felt that hopeless 'Here I am again, Lord' feeling. Only three times? I hope not.
So I pick myself up, or He picks me up or something, and I carry on.
Where I want to travel to is that place of real transparency, 'light of Jesus shining through', where the beauty of Jesus is seen in me, and the gap is closed between what I am and what I seem to be.
ESSE QUAM VIDERI
Do you know this hymn?
Dear Master, in whose life I seeThat's what I mean.
All that I would, but fail to be,
Let thy clear light for ever shine,
To shame and guide this life of mine.
Though what I dream and what I do
In my weak days and always two,
Help me, oppressed by things undone,
O thou, whose deeds and dreams were one.
(John Hunter 1889)