Close, Just a Closer Walk With Thee

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus, keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

When my feeble life is over
Time for me will be no more
Guide me gently, safely over
To Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore
~Fanny Crosby~

Dragging myself out of bed on the heels of hosting back-to-back socials, I tried to gather my wits about me: What day is it? What’s on the schedule? What are the day’s priorities? It was 5:30 AM, and I was already at my wits’ end. Our dog Friday was fixated on finding the best burial ground for her rawhide, and our cat Jingles was mournfully requesting access to the bathroom, the door of which I had closed due to the recent invasion of bats in the attic space. I probably could have tuned out the dog and the cat, but I could not ignore the chirping of the bats in their newly selected habitat. I was not yet up to form and ready to meet these head-on “high-maintenance demands.”

It was too early for this. 

My eye-lids heavier than usual, I slogged through the morning routine, sadly recalling to myself that I hadn’t had a chance to reflect, remember, and reboot for the turn of the New Year. I kept breathing over and over again, “God, keep me close. Just keep me close to Your heart as I walk through this day.” I didn’t want to unnecessarily fixate on meaningless distractions, like my dog aimlessly looking for a place to bury her bone. I wanted to greet the year with joyful anticipation! And here I was, prying my eyelids open and already feeling overwhelmed by the full-speed requirement of the week’s schedule. 

As I was ruminating on these things, I started to pay attention to the song that was surfacing in my spirit. Fanny Crosby’s “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” An echo of my one-line prayer.

Yes, God. Keep me close. Just keep me close to your heart as I walk through this day.

Armed with my cup of caffeine, the Lord graciously led me down the path of thankfulness for my children and petitions for their well-being and upcoming events for them. He gently reminded me how He had, indeed, been close to me this past year as I walked through heartaches and grief. 

My Bible had been bookmarked at Psalm 107 for a long season now, and I again started soaking in its promises and the active role God assumes:  he redeems, he gathers, he leads, he satisfies, he fills, he brings, he sends, he heals, he speaks and stirs…what was this in verse 27? They were at their wits’ end. Hadn’t I just been trying to gather my wits about me? 

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
Psalm 107:28-31

Unconvinced of my current “haven” as I thought of the enclave of bats in my house, I decided to do a word search on “close.” With Fanny Crosby’s song still echoing within me, I was drawn to Philippians 4:5b. There it was! “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything (the schedule;the children; the BATS!), but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” How can I be thankful for these bats? I had always had a certain intrigue about them, and their mosquito-eating diet was a bonus, but I was NOT thankful for them taking up residence in my house. Then it dawned on me, not only was I to be thankful, but I had glossed over the first part of verse 5. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again: Rejoice!
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
But in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:4-7

So emphatic was Paul on this point that it bore repetition. Was I truly required to rejoice over these bats? Good Lord, show me how this is to be done! 

The response to this whine, and others like it, is No: No, I am not required to rejoice that the bats are in my house. What I am exhorted to do, however, is rejoice in spite of the bats. Going back to the analogy about my dog Friday and her bone, I don’t have to walk around wondering where to bury the burden I carry. It’s tempting to want to find a solution now in order to “move on with my life” and forget about the bat problem, or about that relationship problem, or be a “fixer” and fix the van door, fix the snow-blower, fix and forget so we can “move on” with life by burying the burden.

Lysa TerKeurst phrases this relationship we have with anxieties well:

“The feeling of anxiety is like an alarm bell alerting us to remember
the Lord is near, so we don’t have to overreact;
we can let the peace of God protect our hearts and minds and intentionally direct and filter our thoughts,
factoring in what is still good.”
Good Boundaries and Goodbyes, p.269

We aren’t called to rejoice over the burdens. We are invited to rejoice because the Lord is near to us as we meet up with burdens and hand them to Him to carry. We rejoice because He is near us! 

The secret of joy is Christ in me—
not me in a different set of circumstances.
~Elisabeth Elliot~

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