For a long time, Zephaniah 3:17 has been a verse that I’ve held close to my heart. It came into my life during a time when darkness was being lifted, but clouds were still present…and its message felt like a gift from God, written just for me. Scripture is amazing like that, sometimes. For such an incredible verse, I feel like its not as well known as it needs to be. Here it is:
” The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
When I first read it, I was overwhelmed with the idea that I, Catherine Bridget (at the time!) O’Connor, could cause the God of the Universe to be delighted– so delighted that He would burst into song. I tried to imagine what that was like…and the image I felt like God gave me was one of a father holding his infant daughter in his arms, lifting her up over his head and throwing his head back in joy at simply being with his precious child. In the mental picture, the baby was too young to really be *doing* anything that would cause her father to smile…no funny faces or cute drooling…the father was simply delighted that his daughter existed and that he was with her.
That idea…that God could be delighted in me just because I was his was profoundly transformative for me. And its a thought that has tossed about in my head, like the ocean throws around a rock, tumbling it to fit its sea-since that verse first entered my world.
At other times, the “quiet you with his love” has been the aspect of the verse that I’ve clung to– to be quieted, calmed, by love, is so beautiful. The idea that God’s love could take my anxious mind and body and quiet it through love…and that love has come in many ways through God’s gift of Sean for me. God knows, literally, how often Sean has held me and helped calm my spirit, when my mind has raced far beyond my own ability to tame it. Other times, it has come directly from God, through practicing His presence and reminding me that only in Him can I live in safety.
But this morning, I was drawn to “he will rejoice over you with singing.” I’ve been reading Curt Thompson’s Anatomy of the Soul and despite my having read this chapter quite some time ago, I was drawn to a section of it that uses this very verse to illuminate God’s experience of us.
Take a few moments in a quiet and comfortable place, free of distraction, and simply imagine, the you can, being in God’s presence while he is feeling delighted to be with you, while he is quieting and rejoicing in your presence. Imagine God singing about you. Until I wrote that sentence, I don’t think I’d ever actually thought of God singing. Is he a baritone, a tenor, a soprano, an alto, or perhaps some blended combination of vocal beauty that is impossible to describe? The point is, he’s performing an opera in your honor because he takes so much pleasure in you.
Still don’t have the picture? Think of U2 holding a concert just for you. In your honor. But now imagine that instead of Bono, it’s God. Too cool. We often consider how we should feel in God’s presence. But have you ever imagined how he feels in yours? Do you feel Jesus feeling delight, joy, and peace? If not, what do you feel him feeling instead? What do you imagine he looks like? How does he sound? What does he say? What is the tone of his voice? and then, what do you feel yourself feeling as you respond to these initiatives of God? (Anatomy of the Soul, p. 107)
The idea that God would sing over me has always felt a little forced…a little distance…and frankly, cheesy. Except that when I thought of it this morning, I remembered a sweet moment that Lily and I shared a few days ago. Lately, she has been really into using her alphabet blocks to create tall towers. She likes to stack one upon the other and is so unbelievably proud of her creations. And she’s getting pretty good! Nine or ten blocks stacked on top of each other! The other day though, she invited me to help her (or rather, as she says, “Help you?”) so I came into her room and we began stacking the tower, each of us taking turns taking a block and stacking it. She got such a kick out of doing it with me and the time with her felt so precious…very much a “this is why we have kids” moment…I felt overwhelmed with love for her and frankly, as I thought about this moment this morning, I finally had an experience and an image with which to imagine God singing over me…just because he loved me. For I now know that feeling…I could easily have broken into song over my love for this sweet child. Easily. And it wouldn’t even have been weird…it would have felt natural. What a gift from God to experience love like this for my child- so I can now, in turn, understand a little more how God feels about me. That He takes great delight in me…quiets me with his love…and rejoices over me with singing.
|So excited about her tower, she decided to roll with glee.|
|Getting so good at blocks, time to move on to Daddy’s drinks.|