In your strings is hid a music that no hand
hath e’er let fall,
In your soul is sealed a pleasure that you
have not known at all;
Pleasure subtle as your spirit, strange and
slender as your frame,
Fiercer than the pain that folds you, softer
than your sorrow’s name.
— G. K. Chesterton,”The Strange Music”
The house held a rare quiet as Lily, Hope, and Eden slept late, Caleb read in his bed, and Bo lingered in and out of wakefulness. The distant noise of ocean waves from the noisemaker that filled Virginia’s room upstairs was the only sound I heard.
It seemed peaceful, yet I woke empty. The quieting of the daily noise made me notice my uneasiness.
Since the early years of cramming too much into my schedule, I grew to know that the internal quiet isn’t to be feared but to be explored, examined, and even pursued.
I sat as still as I could in my discomfort and listened. Not first to Him but to what I was ignoring:
- Days of passively assessing children’s hearts and assigning long-term fearful expectations.
- Days of muttering, under my breath and in my head, about how no single person could handle all I had to manage.
- Days of feeling bad about me and thus being silent before God, sliding right back into my old way of believing that good behavior precedes good conversation with God and that a daughter needs to earn her hearing.
As I untangled this jumble of thoughts before Him, the emptiness lifted. I realized in the quiet that I had a lot to discuss with God. I needed the reminder that murky thoughts don’t create a barrier between God and me; they connect us.
The pace of life can enslave us. Our humanity makes us vulnerable to the enslaving.
We feel the distance between who He is and what we are in our sin, selfishness, and frailty. We don’t want to be vulnerable and feel uncomfortable in our weakness. We scramble. We hustle. It all feels necessary. How else do we keep the pace?
The pace for me includes seven kids, my schedule full with family rhythms, piano lessons, mother-daughter dates, and so many mouths to feed.
For you, is it the boss’s expectations of her employees or the overtime to cope with unrelenting bills or the 4.0 that ever-so-slightly evades you or the ministry opportunities that never sleep? Or even the “inevitable” fear of missing out that keeps your phone in your pocket and your social calendar full?
We invite God into our already established pace of life, give Him a small margin in which to speak and move and interact with us in the structure of our days, and then wonder why the rare quiet feels scary. And we feel vulnerable.
But we still carry a God-given craving for more — more of Him — and for deeper interactions with a God who can change us and soften us.
We engage with God at the familiar level and feel the void. You may be reading this book after mornings like the one I described, when you feel the odd juxtaposition of your discomfort with your quiet and a desire for more of Him.
“As Christians, we often feel the undergrounded restlessness of our ontological lightness even in our prayers. We find ourselves praying for God to ‘do’ this, or for Him to help us ‘do’ that. Our prayers seem to originate from somewhere near the surface of our skin rather than any deep place inside. We go away feeling that we have not communed, that we have not put down our burdens, and indeed, we haven’t.”1
Adoration is one response to that restlessness.
It’s a way to invite Him beneath our skin into the scary, vague empty places. Adoration isn’t pious; it is vulnerability in action. In adoration, we start with the weak place, the empty place, the uncomfortable place and invite God to speak into it.
And we speak back to Him. Until the uncomfortable, empty places start to feel less daunting, more accessible to our Maker.
Every day I make choices that determine whether I grow or stall. Whose line about my life will I believe? Whose narrative will set my course?
It often looks like this: the child we adopted from a hard place has a meltdown — her heart giving way, again, to the weight of years of loss and pain — and my inner conversation can go one of two ways. (And most times this is subtle.)
I think, This pain is a carryover from yesterday. It looks like this ache may never lift. I should brace myself for decades of this.
Or, God has her on a path. Today is rough, but it is part of His healing her heart. He is making her whole, and today happens to be on the harder side of whole. It hurts me, and it hurts her, but I will lean into Him, here.
We work hard to avoid our vulnerability. The car gets totaled, disease invades someone close to us, the business’s sales slow, our babies don’t sleep through the night, and our teenagers fumble and fall as they grow into early adulthood. We live vulnerable, subject to the world outside of what we can control, though we work hard to avoid it.
My life is shaped by how I respond when I feel exposed.
By putting on flesh, Jesus subjected Himself to the same vulnerability that courses through the rest of us daily. Hourly.
He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross. — Philippians 2:7-8
Our likeness is vulnerable. Frail. We sweat and cry and crack our skin open when we fall. He encased us in weakness.
And His choice to also wear weakness gives us an opportunity for a response when circumstances coax us into the false narrative that if we were bigger, stronger, better at bracing ourselves for the worst, smart enough to evade it, then the weakness wouldn’t feel so terrible.
Jesus clothes Himself in weakness — He did not evade temptation — but He showed us what to do with it.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. — Luke 4:1-2
Satan enticed Jesus, after His forty days of hunger, toward power and physical reprieve. Satan hurled seething accusations at Him and offered Him a way out of them. (Sound familiar?)
And Jesus responded, three times, with this: “It is written.” In the raw vulnerability that temptation surfaces, Jesus pointed to the Word.
Jesus is God. He lived God’s narrative, and yet He clung to the Word as His response to the enemy’s suggestions for circumventing weakness. Jesus’ enemy was as real as ours, alighting upon our circumstances, adding weight and confusion to everyday struggles. Revelation calls him the “accuser of our brethren” and says he makes accusations “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). Just as he did with Jesus, Satan capitalizes during the minutes of our day to hurl accusations into our already swirling minds.
With the enemy in our ear, our minds need relief. The Word is an agent of healing that we in our vulnerability need.
And what I heard that morning, in those dawn-breaking hours, was, “The Word heals.”…
God is rest and is bounty. I was caving under dread and lack.
I started my adoration there. I, the little girl standing on the sun-scorched pavement with a tennis racket in her hand, bare feet burning from the heat, and the safety of Daddy’s arms fleeting in light of what I know now.
It went like this: I feel lack, but You say You are bounty for me.
I feel the loss of life and the loss of potential and the dread that entered when my world turned upside down, but You say I can rest.
I feel vigilant and self-protective. I feel the need to guard against dread as a constant surveillance. I’m scared and lonely, but You meet me there.
I adore You, God. You promise me rest, especially when I feel fearful. I adore You for putting my soul at peace with the bounty of Your safety and Your protection. I adore You for the future You have for me of bounty, even though I so often expect lack.
As I pray from my weakest and lowest place, I feel His presence entering into what is mine to guard. I become aware that I am not alone.
Adoration isn’t an evasion of my deepest feelings in order to placate the pain in discipline. Adoration is where I bring my most vulnerable self to the feet of the safe God. In adoration, I try out what it feels like to be fully me in front of all that He is and it frees me. On living freely, author Eugene Peterson writes, “The ability to reason in relation to what is in our lives, to assemble all the evidence, visible and invisible, so that we can compare what is happening now with what happened last year, to hold what we experience with our senses in relation to what we receive by promise, to read Scripture accurately and our own hearts honestly is essential to living freely.”2
Adoration can be a bridge between our vulnerability and the gently prodding presence of the God who sent us His Son, encased in vulnerability.
C.S. Lewis writes, “We shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest.”3
Vulnerability is the practice ground for adoration. We start with the weak places, the lowest places.
Pastor Tim Keller writes, “Another reason for the primacy of praise is that it has such power to heal what is wrong with us and create inner spiritual health.”4
Adoration is an initiator of healing.
- Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, Sacred Romance (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 164.
- Eugene H. Peterson, Traveling Light: Modern Meditations on St. Paul’s Letter of Freedom (Colorado Springs: Helmers and Howard, 1998), 83.
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), 122.
- Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Group, 2014), 190.
Excerpted with permission from Adore by Sara Hagerty, copyright Sara Hagerty.
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If the circumstances of life right now make you hyper-aware of your weakness, how are you responding to that awareness? What if the lack you’re feeling is actually the “more” you’ve been longing for? Come share your thoughts about this on our blog. We want to hear from you!