Recently my sister showed me this beautiful song;
"To Keep Your Lovely Face"
by Graham Kendrick
Ever before my eyes
This is my prayer
Make it my strong desire
That in my secret heart
No other love competes
No rival throne survives
And I serve only You
I first heard it last Wednesday and loved it at once. I've been singing it ever since, so much so that as I lay in bed last night I couldn't help hearing it play in my mind. While the melody is beautiful, it's the lyrics that resonate so strongly with me.
I've been told by a few that I'm intense (really what they mean is they think I'm fanatical). If I am, it's because the God I serve is completely amazing! His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. They are so far above my own that when someone tells me such a thing I can't help but laugh a little inside. Here I am, just barely skimming the surface of His greatness with my tiny thoughts and people think I'm intense? These kinds of judgements will never dissuade me from endeavoring to know Him more! The reason? God is so majestic in holiness and wonderful in mercy that I can not help but to dwell upon His greatness! There is NO competing love and no rival throne to compare.
I'd like you to consider something. I'll begin with a short story about a woman I know. She's been married for thirty some years to a man who is less than loving. She's shed many tears for him and because of him, but still she stays faithful to the vows she made on her wedding day. Her commitment is a rare find these days. And I'm sure many will scoff when I say that I applaud her devotion. Most would think her justified in divorcing her husband. She does not "feel loved". There is no passion. Her husband treats her indifferently and he's condemning and rude, dismissive and mocking of her faith. Yep, seems like a just reason to divorce, to most people. Yet she stays and perseveres.
Are you wondering how such a thing can be done? I tell you, it's because she has her eyes fixed on God so much so that no competing love (or in her case desire to be loved) and no rival throne survives in her heart of hearts. Nothing stands to overrule God's commands and nothing usurps His wisdom or will. He is God and He is sufficient for her. Because of this she's able to bear with the failings of her unsaved husband and endure loneliness and heart break even when the rest of the world would condone a divorce.
The secret place of the heart is where all idolatry begins. When a man gets his eyes off the One who is worthy of our complete and total surrender and begins allowing rival thrones and competing loves to survive and thrive, the compromise that follows seems reasonable to him. These rival thrones take various forms, but all of them in the end are nothing but idolatry. God says, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength". But it's so easy to be lead astray in our heart of hearts, to embrace basically anything and everything upon which we set our affections. It's when that happens that our affections overrule what God has said and choosing to be faithful to Him regardless of the circumstances seems fanatical rather than reasonable. But what most don't realize is that it's an oxymoron to say, "No, Lord".
This song is the prayer of a man given over to God. And he's asking God to always let him gaze upon His loveliness so that no other love competes and no rival throne survives but God's alone. This is the premise for all faithfulness in every situation. Many martyrs have withstood much painful torture because of the fact that they are gazing intently upon God's lovely face. His word, His promises, His love, His justice, His holiness, His peace, His wrath and His mercy and grace are all so entirely compelling that when a man comes face to face with Him, it is possible to endure many things simply by keeping your eyes fixed upon Him. What would seem fanatical or intense to the world is a completely reasonable response.
Now this might sound ridiculous to you. You may even be scorning my words at this very moment. But I know that if you knew God as LORD, you'd understand the things of which I speak. And you'd join me in encouraging people like this woman to remain faithful even when they don't get their "happily ever after". And you'd join with me in admiration of the martyrs who refuses to denounce the name of Jesus, because you'd understand that it is His face upon which they've set their eyes. These and so many other hard situations in life are able to be endured because God Himself gives the strength and faith to remain faithful.
You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. He is to be loved even above our own consuming desires. Intense, fanatical, obsessive and surrendered, every man is called to love God above all else. Competing loves and rival thrones are seen for all their inferiority by those who gaze upon His lovely face. The world looks on with non-comprehending eyes, scorning what seems foolish to them, but believers all over the world and all throughout history have willingly surrendered to God's will by keeping first and foremost in their affections His Lordship.