I haven't stopped struggling with a feeling of being unworthy to draw as closely to God as I've been for so long. I've been meditating on this verse and its context:
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
(Luke 5:8 NKJV)
I've often identified with Peter. It seems to me that he wants desperately to be a godly man. Perhaps he tries too hard. He is continually tripped up over his foot in his mouth—by being confronted with his inherent sinfulness.
In the Scriptures, I can feel Peter's great love for Jesus. I empathize with how horrible Peter would have felt to have declared with sincere passion that he would follow the Lord anywhere, and then falter in the moment of testing. I think of Peter plunging into the sea and rushing to shore when Jesus appears after His resurrection, and their verbal wrestling over Peter's love.
Then the Lord surprises me with a question.
Do you still love Me?
I cannot answer. I want to say, like Peter, "Lord, You know all things—You know I love you." But I've fallen so far short in expressing love that I don't feel I have the right to assert my love, even as I can feel it burning within my heart.
Why do you not come closer?
I have to think for a long time. The question has been dogging me for months. I've come up with many reasons, and I search my heart for the root of the matter.
It's one thing to lose my temper or have some other outward action confront me with a display of the sinfulness I still carry with me. It's another to have my Lord's words of rebuke sear my soul with revelation of my inner iniquity—and with expression of His displeasure.
I know I'm forgiven for all my sins, past and future. I also know that the iniquity of my flesh is just as present. I hate myself to know I'm just as likely to keep stumbling in front of the holy God I love.
I fear Your displeasure.
I think of the phrase I've seen in Scripture, "Your hot displeasure." I look it up and read two Psalms where it appears, begninning to end. I linger over these words.
O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.
There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
(Psalms 38:1-4 NKJV)
I think to myself that if the Lord simply spoke word of affirmation, words of favor, I could feel it safe to again draw as close as I have. I feel I cannot presume upon His favor until He extends the sceptre. I think of how many times and ways He has affirmed me in the past and how I wish He would do so now. But that is not what He offers.
You want only a Father's affirmation and not the rebuke?
Again, I cannot answer. I know His many affirmations have been far more numerous and greater than His few rebukes, even more than that last, strongest rebuke.
I just want the sweet fellowship again. It won't be the same now.
It will be better.
I know what He speaks is true. I don't disbelieve. But I'm so discouraged to know my weakness that I don't know how to engage myself with the Lord. He's so strong. His might overwhelms me.
I'm so weak. I just want You to carry me.
I have been. I want you to walk with Me.
Lord, I feel too weak to walk with Someone as mighty as You. I once wanted to do great things for You because of my great debt to Your Love, to Your Grace. I used to leap up onto the altar. It's all I can do to crawl onto the altar now that I understand what a shamefully blemished sacrifice I am. You deserve better. Please help me in my weakness. Please help me understand how to see myself as You see me, neither putting myself down nor puffing myself up. If You ask me to walk with You, please help me rise to Your steady pace, with the unforced spring in my step that I used to have. Please let me be Your joy.