Sometimes I just get full of myself. And believe me, that’s never a good thing. I don’t mean full of myself in a feel-good kind of way. Not the full of myself like I’ve just accomplished some great feat, or feel like I’m on top of the world.
No, I get full of my failures. My shortcomings. My downright refusals to just do the right thing. Yeah, that’s what I get full of. And it gets stagnant and starts to smell.
Why do I fill myself with things like that? Because I don’t stop to purposely empty myself.
I learned a beautiful lesson about emptying myself from a dear friend a couple of years ago. We were getting ready to leave for a Christian women’s conference, so excited about getting our worship on. A day or two before we left, she sent an email to all of us planning to go, and she shared how God had spoken to her about emptying herself before she left, so she could be filled. (That email eventually became this blog post.)
That message has never left my heart.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I’m a jar designed to hold a great treasure, not to be filled with trash. But where there’s trash, there’s no room for treasure. I fill myself with the most ridiculous things, and it leaves no room for a Heavenly refill.
Even on some of my better days, when I may have given God my failures and shortcomings, I still find I’m full of myself. I’ll ask forgiveness and I’ll give God my bitterness. I’ll hand over my unforgivness. I’ll let go of my anger and my pride. But in the blink of an eye I’ve filled myself with other things. Things that might seem more noble, but take up precious space nonetheless.
I’ll fill myself with projects. I’ll fill to overflowing with commitments to other people because I can’t bear to tell them no. I’ll cram in a few extra duties that make me look like a really good person. And with every other thing I shove in my jar, I know it’s not something of God. It’s me again… full of myself.
That’s when I find myself overwhelmed. That’s when I have trouble squeezing in my prayer time. That’s when I discover it’s been a few days since I sat quietly alone with God, listening for His direction and waiting for His guidance. Because I’ve been too busy cramming more stuff in my jar.
That’s when I cry out for mercy. I need a fresh drink of mercy, God! I need that kind of mercy Jeremiah wrote about.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
A study of the Hebrew words used in those verses gives the most glorious picture of an overflow of God’s mercies. It’s like taking the kind of clay jar the Hebrews would have used to store fresh water, and filling it to overflowing with sparkling, fresh water. But, it goes even beyond that. It’s a freshness like the jar was emptied completely of any remaining water and filled with a fresh, new water of a quality never experienced before. And the refilling is constant and ongoing. Always the fresh flowing through until it overflows.
But I can’t get that fresh drink of mercy. Not because God won’t give it to me. I can’t get it because there’s no room for it. I haven’t emptied myself of my filth. I haven’t emptied myself of myself.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV)
If the very Son of God saw fit to empty Himself to make redemption available for me, shouldn’t I see fit to empty myself for Him?
All those things I’ve been hanging on to for so long, refusing to give to God because it meant admitting my sinfulness. Refusing to give to God because it meant giving up my agenda for His. That’s why there’s no room for His mercy.
When mercy is all I have, it means I’ve emptied myself of everything meaningless.
Yeah, that’s where I want to be… where mercy is all I have.