O, Love!

art beach beautiful clouds

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O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thy oceans depths its flow
will richer, fuller be…

O Joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be…

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
And in they ocean depths its flow
Shall richer, fuller be
That morn shall tearless be —
O love…
O love that will not let me go
O love that will not let me go!
~ “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg

I sat in the sparsely-filled auditorium as my daughter’s choir filed the risers row by row, filling with white-shirted young men in black bow ties and pants, the girls in simple floor-length black gowns. The songs flowed beautifully from their lips, as though pulled forth masterfully by their beloved conductor.

msa choir

I’ve enjoyed every concert, pulling my little brood to the Senior Chorale concerts in our home school community since long before any of them were old enough to stand on that stage — often in the back where I could set up a blanket with toys and scoop up wailing little ones for a quick retreat if necessary.

So sitting there at the choral competition in a private school I’d never been in before, my last-born nearby, his sister on the stage — I didn’t expect anything but the usual excellence. And of course they didn’t disappoint.

But then this song quietly entered the room, slowly filling the room — and me — to the full with its rich harmonies. But it was so much more than that.

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go…

… that will not let me go

Ah, how that simple phrase sank down, down, till it settled warm and thick, fluid flow gentle ebb and flow in my spirit, my soul. That reassurance that I never fully had before finally found its way so deep down it can’t be drained out again or yanked from my clutching hands, my wailing heart!

gripping hands

I know, finally know beyond knowing, that God’s firm grip on me never loosens.

I was never a once-saved-always-saved Christian. I was more the if-I-screw-up-God’s-gonna-strike-me-down-so-I’d-better-watch-my-step Christian. But even then I fought — oh how I fought! — to let MY will be done, only obeying when I decided. The concept of Jesus being Lord of me was simply beyond my grasp and being a hard-headed (and often hard-hearted) person, I thought (O fool that I was!) that I could be a Christian without really submitting to my Master.

At first God was just plain scary so I avoided Him.
Then He swung to the other end — my buddy… Hey, wassup, Jesus?

Truth was at neither pole, it turns out. But He pursued me, O He would not let me get away with being ignorant. He let me flounder in my foolishness, letting me tell Him No, but feeling the sting of it afterwards. Running back into His arms, asking Him to help me bridge the divide between fear of doing what He wanted me to do (Please, don’t send me to Africa…) and fear of what would happen if I didn’t . And, always right there,  the verse that challenged, frightened, and sobered me:

“If you love Me, keep my commands.”
~ Jesus in John 14:15

Simple but impossible. I was dead set in my disobedient ways, thinking He loved me so it was okay. I could basically live on my own terms. But that’s not how it works.

It never was intended to be a “magic prayer so I can go to Heaven” deal. Jesus didn’t die so I could believe a certain creed, even if it meant committing every verse in His holy Book to memory and doing everything just so (or nearly so). He didn’t leave Heaven so I could live any way I please and expect to enter Heaven when I die because Didn’t I say the prayer? Didn’t I believe? Didn’t I do the right things?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23

Wow — yep, this is Jesus’ own words, and they couldn’t be clearer. His love that will not let go doesn’t let me get away with a passive head knowledge, keep-away distorted religious facade.

His love pursues my heart — our hearts! Even when I was plunged into mental illness,  unacknowledged bi-polar ripping my mind, psychosis wielding a knife — when I thought I was lost and in Hell, my cell in Chester County Prison a place of death and hopelessness…

When I cried from the floor, “I give up, I give up…” Love not my own swelled into my heart and even when I couldn’t feel it at all, my head was cradled in His lap and the Jesus I thought had let me go sang sweet songs over me. Sweet songs that pulled me from the depths of that prison cell into light and life and more love than I ever thought possible.

O Love that will not let me go!

woman in stripes holding hands with person wearing bracelets

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And when I’m tempted to slide away from Him, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love!”* — I hear a quiet whisper, a whoosh in my spirit, my soul breathing deep and I can’t help but gaze into the eyes on fire for me. I breathe in love and join Him in the dance, this dance we share. I bow, eyes aglow, for He is my King.

woman bowing

He is a consuming fire, but His love consumes all sin in me.
He is not safe, He could crush me with His hand and someday He will purify this present Earth with devastating fire. Those who cling to their sins and refuse to obey — well what can He do? He gives us all the choice and the choice leads to Life — or Death — there is no in-between. He would let me choose death, but not without a fight, a struggle for my soul till I breathe my last.

But this Love that will not let me go will not let me but choose to stay with the God I love.  This Love draws me back into endless embrace, and really what more could I ever want? For in Him is all our hearts long for:

So much more than a lifetime can tally, so much that eternity will explore the heights, the depths, the burgeoning sea of this Love. It’s a daily choice to sink into Him, letting my own agenda melt into His. It’s a Good morning, Jesus, I love You — what shall we do today? It’s walking into every day acknowledging You are the Lord and I’m just me — but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — so let’s take on today!

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go!

Now, sweet reader, think on these things. What is keeping you from running into His arms, from crowning Jesus Christ King of your heart, your life? Today is the day to choose to embrace this never-ending Love. It’s time to die to that old, dead life that is destined to rot, decay, and fall into endless Hell. It’s time to enter with Jesus into death and rise into new life, a rebirth that springs forth endless life, endless Love with the One you were made for.

It’s time, dear one.

shallow focus of clear hourglass

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*”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson


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