• Christy

Repetition Aids Learning

(Originally Published 2/18/15)

In the church I grew up in, every service ended with an altar call - an invitation to come to the front of the church and pray alone or with someone in response to the sermon. The same hymn was sung at the end of every sermon while this invitation was offered –Just As I Am. Depending on how many people came forward, we would sing 2 verses or 6. I will refrain from offering my views on altar calls, since that isn’t the point of this post. I will say though, that Just As I Am has not been one of my favorite hymns, due to the fact that I have probably sung it 64 million times in my life. I grew up, moved away, wadded up that song (along with a lot of my church past), and shoved it to the back of my subconscious.

Funny thing happened a few weeks ago. The words to Just As I Am came back to me in a flash, and just when I needed to recall them. As I mentioned in my last post, I had been struggling with faith issues, and having a hard time approaching my Father. But when I drug myself to the fountain - just as I was - slowly, drop by drop, I was renewed and drawn closer to God than I had been before. The first pool He led me to was the remembrance of His great love for me. There is much about God that is unsearchable and beyond knowing, but there’s one thing I know for sure – Jesus died for me. I got all weepy over this elementary fact like it was the first time it had occurred to me.

Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me.

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

I was holding back, afraid to approach God for fear of being disappointed again. I was entertaining thoughts that perhaps He wasn’t there or didn’t care. And then I felt the burden of guilt – how could I be so weak in faith? Surely I can't come to Him with all this mess. The thing is, when I set my face (reluctantly at first) again towards His, He soothed my aching heart, cleansed each spot, calmed my raging sea of conflicts and doubts.

Just as I am, and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,

To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about

With many conflicts, many doubts,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come.

My faith has been strengthened through this period of doubt. It is a weird way to grow faith, I admit. It seems more logical to strengthen faith by trusting God to pull through in small situations, getting answers to prayer, then trusting Him for even larger problems, and on and on. And I’ve experienced that in my life, for sure. But this season of doubt seemed like a big step backwards at first. I had never in my life told God, “I don’t know if I can trust you as a loving Father.” But as I pressed into Him even when I didn’t feel like it, He began to lead me into a deeper, more mature faith – a faith that doesn’t need to see the end of the path in order to trust. It’s not exactly a blind faith, since it is still grounded in my experiences with God and in reading how He has interacted with humans through the ages. I’d call it a blindfolded faith. I’m holding onto Him as He leads me, and I will actively trust and obey Him even when at times, it doesn’t make sense to do so.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need in thee to find,

O Lamb of God, I come.

The most amazing thing about going through a dark forest of faith is that there is absolutely nothing I could say or do that would surprise God. He’s heard it all before. I read a lot David’s prayers - how He cried out to God begging for a response when God seemed silent. How God’s dealing with men on earth seemed totally unfair. How God seemed to offer no relief from the anguish of depression or despair. If God can handle those prayers, God can certainly handle my honesty. In fact, He relishes in it. I could almost hear Him smile and say, “Finally, Christy. An honest conversation. Thank you for telling me how you really feel.” What a blessed welcome we have when we throw ourselves and all of our mess into His lap. It is only when we admit our woundedness that He can heal us! It is only when we mourn that he can offer comfort.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Our women’s ministry director offered us a challenge a few weeks ago to memorize a few verses. The first verses that came to my mind were the ones in Ephesians 3 – Paul’s prayer for the church – that talk about grasping how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and knowing this love that surpasses knowledge. I think God has drawn me through this crisis to experientially know His love in a way that surpasses intellectual knowing. I can definitely relate to this verse of Just as I Am (which we rarely sang, since it is verse 6):

Just as I am, thy love unknown

Hath broken every barrier down;

Now, to be thine, yea thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come.

So now, I am grateful for the repetition of this great hymn, and many others, for all those years. Having this treasure trove of deep theology in my subconscious is immeasurably valuable to my relationship with God. Yet another reason to thank Mom & Dad.

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