These are words from one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. They are part of the verse that goes:
O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be,
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
I love how, out of context, the words suggest perhaps a feeling of wanderlust or innocent curiosity, an inclination to wander and seek and explore.
But in the context of the hymn, they point right to something a little darker that we all have within us: an inclination to stray, to get lost. To navigate this world unfixed on anything. To wander away from who we are in God, to fully give our fragile hearts so easily to things that are not nearly as worthy of them as their creator.
As a result of moving away soon, many of my days lately have been filled with some wonderful coffee date conversations with friends (maybe that explains the recent consistency of writing here), and one such conversation was about this very thing: how very unbound to anything I felt when I was far from God.
Not always; there were times when I felt okay enough, or like my happiness was secure. There were great times, even, of self-discovery and of course creative self-expression. There were times where things happened- some good, some heartbreaking- when I learned things and I 'found myself.' There were times when I uncovered something- had personal breakthroughs- that taught me more of who I was.
There were experiences that grew me, challenged me, pushed me, changed me.
And then eventually, for some weird reason, there came a time when I kind of admitted I was sick of me.
There was a conviction to start thinking less about me. A time when I realized that all the self-discovery and self-expression and self-reflection and self-awareness and personal breakthroughs of a lifetime would never quite tell the truth about who I really was. These things weren't leading me to higher ground.
I'm not sure how or when in my journey that that thinking started coming in, but it changed the way I perceived everything. I will always believe self-discovery is beautiful and necessary, but I will never again believe that the happiness we derive from it is not fleeting.
There's something cyclical about constantly uncovering more and more about the self, but there's something forward-moving about constantly uncovering more and more about God.
I love to learn about myself, don't get me wrong: I like to take feedback from people and see the ways I tick, what I need to do to improve things, how I could be better. And I love learning about others too. But I also love learning about God- and that's a totally different process. That saves me from believing that going through this life thinking only about myself is the most optimal way to live.
And we're not always prone to that. We're not naturally inclined to believe that God saves us from ourselves- we're naturally inclined to believe that we save ourselves. We'll look (or at least, I know I looked) for a million ways to claim my own truth and figure myself out and do it my way before I started to see the necessity of higher, providential love in my life- that wasn't mine.
And that's part of the Gospel, the recognition of pride, the last thing to go before we can be brave or humble enough to seek Him first and begin actually living the fearless life for which we were created. If my self-discovery doesn't lead me toward something higher, and it only leads me back in a circle to more of myself or my own understanding, it's not really freedom: it's a vicious cycle.
It's such an interesting time in my own life right now: I'm realizing that the best use of this life is to live it for something that outlasts it, and that I can have originality, personality, and independence without glorifying myself. That is, I'm not alive just to reinforce who I am, but it is to reinforce who God is. If there's a valid, selfless, peace-inducing point to all this, that's it. If everything I've learned about myself is to be manifested for any universal (or person-to-person) good, it is to be used to glorify God's greatness and amazingness- not mine.
I wouldn't really have anything truly constructive to say about suffering and pain and sadness as I've experienced it unless it brought me closer to God, unless it forced me into the realization of where I have come from and where I am going, unless it ignited something in my soul, not just my ego.
I've heard it said that the art of living lies in making use of suffering. That's exactly what art is- and that's exactly why I make so much of it. Not because I am suffering, but because I have suffered. Just like everybody, and I'm sure it will happen again. But the point is not to fall into the common trap of self-centered thinking that says the best way to transcend it is alone in my own head, or only in counsel with others who are doing the same thing.
The best way to transcend it is to realize that through it, God is using your suffering to bring you home to His peace, to give you refuge, to save you from being lost- to bind your wandering heart to His, and to heal it once and for all.
"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." -Romans 5:3-4