the covenant

while I sleep unaware
like Abraham of old
in the deep darkness
You walk with open eyes
this covenant between us
swearing by the very holiness
of Your name

though I slumber
I am sealed
firmly
completely
fully Yours
because of Your vow
of faith
and goodness
because of Your life
Your sacrifice
Your love

a blaze of fire
sears the earth between us
forever marking me
as Your own
branding me as beloved
of the Lord Most High
signed
sealed
covenant complete

light breaking through darkness
awakening the dawn of us
Your words
mingle with promises
of possession
and all is grace
overflowing wonder
linking heaven and earth
birthing blessing
in the renaming of me

emptied and filled
with one Holy Breath of heaven
descended upon me
promise of heritage eternal
legacy of love divine
bound to blessing
with the echoes of Eden
drawing me toward home.

A Messy Covenant

The word covenant has been interrupting my thought patterns recently, as surely as the living out of it has been interrupting my “regularly scheduled life.” After nearly 25 years in a marriage covenant, I’m still an active participant in this binding agreement with my husband, and sometimes this agreement leads me to acts of service that are… well, messy.

As an excavator/contractor/floor-covering specialist/jack-of-all trades, my husband’s range of employment in any given week is quite diverse, and because this is the busy season, Jon has been running himself on nearly 15-hour workdays. Since he has yet to figure out the DNA secret to cloning himself, this week has also been one where I have stepped into the title of “administrative assistant” (which sounds much more prestigious than the less glamorous title of “gofer”). I have literally placed myself at Jon’s disposal, dropping whatever I’ve been working on to aid him in running errands. Driving places, fixing meals, mowing lawns, loading and unloading tools, planting a garden for his friend, completing paperwork, filling fuel containers, digging mud from backhoe tires… In short, I’ve allowed my husband’s needs to take precedence over my own.

Which could very well be the key to a marriage covenant. Or any other convent that is lasting.

Allowing another’s needs to take precedence.

Let’s face it, sometimes we do not care for others well. Instead, we attempt to serve others according to our own needs. In ways that we prefer, even when those ways are not particularly helpful. Too often we remain unwilling to do what the occasion truly calls for.

IMG_3105Yesterday, my marriage covenant called for me to get messy as I worked alongside my husband to remove a clay-like substance from his backhoe. (FYI: Digging sticky pond clay from a backhoe is not the typical romantic setting we ladies dream of, but after 25 years together, my husband has yet to figure that one out. Which could be the reason for the soft shovel pat across my rear while I was bent over prying mud with a crowbar. Lucky for him my crowbar was firmly stuck in the mud.) But I digress.

Sometimes covenants call us to messy places. Places far removed from candlelight dinners and flowers.

But places that hold us together for the long haul.

As much as I hate to admit it, more often than not, it is in the less-than-glamorous places of our marriage where we have found love growing the most rapidly. In the movies, it’s all about the wooing and winning, the wining and dining, the romance and the ambiance of magnificent sunsets. In real life, covenants are sealed in the trenches of shared labor, unselfish motives, and a lot of sweat and tears. I’ve come to find that my heart is knit more strongly with Jon’s when I’m working alongside him in the dirt to help lighten his load than when I’m dressed to the nines and seated across a candlelit table for two.

The truth is, my husband loves me messy. He loves me when I’m serving him in my tiredness – as attested to by the haircut I gave him and the grilled cheese sandwiches I prepared, both after 9 p.m. (those who know me well can appreciate that sentiment). He loves me when I follow him outside after a much-needed shower and sit beside him in the gathering dusk. When he looks at me with my messy hair, and comments on how pretty it is. In complete sincerity. And after 25 years, I find myself falling in love with him a little more. Simply because I love the fact that he loves me in all my messiness.

And I can’t help but wonder if maybe I win his heart a little more fully each time I’m wiling to serve him in this mess of daily life. When I come alongside him and allow myself to be stretched to do those things I’d prefer got done on their own.

When I love him enough to get messy…

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Nothing on Earth Beside

He emptied my hands of my treasured store,

And His covenant love revealed.

There was not a wound in my aching heart
The balm of His breath has not healed.
Oh, tender and true was His discipline sore,

In wisdom that taught and tried,
Till the soul that He sought was trusting in Him,
And nothing on earth beside.
(from Streams in the Desert)

Father, I thank You that You continue to pursue me, coming to my rescue again and again, until I am trusting in You alone. Left unattended and untried, I have proven that I quickly run wild. Banished to my own wants and desires, I become a boastful and selfish mess – not to mention, one that errs continually.

In Your perfect wisdom and love, You pry my hands – often finger by finger – from the idols I have intentionally, and sometimes unwittingly, grasped throughout the years.
The longing for material things – in order to serve You better, of course.
Ministry opportunities that were more to fill a void in my own heart than to honor You.
Idols of self-righteousness as I deemed my own struggles as somehow less than the seemingly glaring trials of others.
Performance-based works to seek Your approval, while failing to realize that I had it all along.
Attitudes and  selfish motives became crafted idols to which I clung as surely as if they were pagan images of stone and wood.
My treasured stores of self-worth and self-promotion –  all became as dust beneath Your feet when Your covenant love was revealed.

Your gentleness continually compels me to be awestruck in Your dealings with me. Occasionally, with indignant, holy anger, You tear the poisonous apple from my hands and fling it far from me. But more often, it is Your kindness that woos my heart, calling me to return to Your side. It is the gentle caress of Your Spirit’s breath to which I find myself responding. It is Your healing touch of love that tugs my heart toward life while opening my eyes to see the death with which I have surrounded myself.

Thank You for Your covenant love, Lord. For caring for me enough to patiently come to my rescue time and again. There has never been a moment when Your faithfulness toward me has wavered. Never a time when Your hand was shortened to save me. Not once did Your compassion wane – even when I played the harlot, casting Your favor behind my back and placing myself at the disposal of other gods.

Please continue to come to me, Father. Pierce my heart with Your truths and enlighten my eyes to see clearly. Do what You must until this soul that You seek is trusting in You… and nothing on earth beside.