It seems as if God gives words to some people in a flash of clarity. To others, the word filters into their conscience and quietly settles into a corner where it gently raises its hand and calls out, “Pick me!” each time one wonders, “What word should I dwell on this year?”
The word that has slipped quietly into the corner of my mind might seem like a strange one. Constrain.
It waved at me from the hymnal in church on Sabbath as we sang “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.” As I pondered why we sang a hymn that 95% of the congregation likely couldn’t understand (my mind asks the strangest questions), the second stanza tripped me up with the whole raising of the Ebenezer (I immediately pictured Ebenezer Scrooge hoisted aloft by an exuberant congregation).
But the third stanza caught my breath. “Oh to grace how great a debtor/Daily I’m constrained to be!” Tears threatened to pop out and my creaky singing voice clanged to a stop as I read the remaining lines. “Let that grace now like a fetter/Bind my wandering heart to Thee.” My wandering heart. My wandering mind.
A sinner sitting in church with a wandering mind and heart. Yep. That describes me perfectly. All too often I forget that I have run up huge debts (mostly from trying to do things on my own) and I must rely on God’s grace to not only make up for my shortcomings, but to keep drawing me closer and closer to God.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love;/Here’s my heart, O take and seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above.” To translate into plain English, one might say, “Father, I wander and run all over the place even though I say I love you and want you to guide me. So, once again, here’s my heart—keep working on it, shaping it and fashioning it to beat in tune with yours so that what breaks your heart breaks mine.”
I love words with double meanings because, well, they mean twice as much as words with simple definitions. Homographs—words that have the same spelling but two completely different definitions—fascinate me because often the different meanings seem diametrically opposed. For example, cleave and cleave. Spelled the same, pronounced the same, yet one means to join and one means to rip asunder.
Constrain, the word whispering from the pages of my hymnbook, has two distinct meanings as well. It can mean ‘to compel’ and also ‘to restrain’. The first denotes a forceful action; the second brings to mind a captive.
The former meaning of the word enjoyed popularity from Shakespearean times until at least 1757 when Robert Robinson penned the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The word shows up in 2 Corinthians 5:14 in the KJV of the Bible: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:”
The Amplified version says, “For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died;”
In recent months I have recognized within myself the need for more constraint (restraint). I need to listen more and talk less. I need to allow room for the Holy Spirit to whisper the right words in my heart before I blurt out MY ‘great’ idea or opinion. Thus, I want God to constrain me.
Following up on last year’s word—deeper—I also see the need for divine compelling in my life. If I had my druthers, I sit around and read books all day long and keep my relationships shallow and my involvement minimal. But God has shown me that going deeper has its rewards.I need divine constraint in my life as spouse, teacher, friend and #caregiver. #oneword365 Click To Tweet
This year, I pray that God continues to work with me to compel and resstrain me so that I can truly say at the end of the year that my heart’s tune comes from a ‘melodious sonnet/Sung by flaming tongues above.” May I feel more firmly fixed on the mount of God’s unchanging love.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
There you have it—the story behind my seemingly weird word choice for 2016. What about you? Have you chosen a word for study and pondering for 2016?
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