On Saturday of the Dwell Conference we were given permission to find a quiet spot somewhere on campus and spend one hour dwelling in God’s presence by meditating on Psalm 27. I sat down in the very back of the chapel, Bible and journal and pencil in hand, eager for the imposed quiet for my soul.
For the first few minutes I simply gazed at the cross and stained glass in the room and breathed. I thought back to some of the phrases that were resonating with me from the conference so far: that the direction of my life is shaped by my loves and that engaging in spiritual practices, such as contemplating Scripture, orients my loves towards God (Aaron Williams). That Jesus is beautiful (Scotty Smith). That I can have a “ready to receive” posture like Samuel (Tim Caldwell).
I opened my Bible to Psalm 27. I think we were supposed to dwell on Psalm 27 in its entirety, but all I could get through in that hour were the first four verses. I read verse one that says the Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear? I paused on verses two and three, wondering about the evil men advancing against the Psalmist (David) and the army that was besieging him. The verses were talking a lot about not fearing the “enemy.” I paused here, knowing I am not currently being besieged by outward enemies and armies seeking to destroy my life. But I can certainly say I am facing enemies, and I’m pretty sure they are all right inside of me, fracturing my heart and my loves so that I am divided in my passions and pursuits. There are many gods - “enemies”- in my heart, seeking to distract and divide me.
So when verse four of Psalm 27 starts out, “ONE thing I ask of the Lord,this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord,” it immediately put into perspective for me that there is really just ONE thing that my whole heart longs for. It longs for dwelling in God’s house and gazing on his beauty. That God would unify my divided heart and make it whole - make it ONE - by allowing me to gaze on his beauty is amazing. And there is no shame, no guilt, no heaviness in gazing on his beauty. I do not feel like I am unworthy, but actually the opposite. I am in God’s presence and enjoying it, and he makes me worthy.
Scotty Smith said, “The more you see the beauty of Jesus, the more you’ll see the joy of repentance.” This is what I mean when I say that there is no shame or guilt or heaviness in realizing my standing before the Lord. All I know is that he is beautiful, I get to gaze on him, and when that happens there is nothing but joy. Which leads, quite naturally, to worship.
In talking about having a heart of worship, Aaron Keyes said something I hope I will always remember: “What might happen in worship if you give God the gift that nobody else can?” The gift no one else can give but me is my own heart. He said it blesses God to worship him, and to lift hands to him like when a little child lifts his hands to a parent, simply saying “I need You.” There was something powerful for me in expressing physically what I believe deep down inside and, as a rather undemonstrative person, this was a leap to actually lift my upturned palms to the Lord. But I wanted to - not because I wanted to impress anyone around me or impress myself - but because I wanted to bless the Lord in my own personal way, and to connect what I felt in my heart with who I am as a physical human being. I felt like that small child, wanting to lift arms to my heavenly Father to say “I need You.” To worship in this way as a family of believers was deeply moving. It was worshiping the Lord as a body in both spirit and in truth.
I think this is the heartbeat of our church, the collective heart that is saying to God, “we need You, we love You, we are gazing on Your beauty, we are dwelling in your temple.” I want nothing more than to continue becoming a church made up of living stones being built together into a dwelling place for the Lord.