While in seminary, I was introduced to a collection of prayers from the Puritans of the late 16th and 17th century.
The first prayer in the book, “The Valley of Vision,” has been one I’ve returned to many times to be reminded that the Christian life is not as glamorous and exciting as we often long for it to be. It’s paradoxical. Losses are gains. I think of the Beatitudes. I find that as I relate to the Jesus I read about in the Bible I too am drawn toward the hurting and the broken.
This seems to be a common theme I’ve wrestled with over the past year. Strangely enough, it’s not the successes and the victories that have shaped me over the years and have made me who I am. I find that I am far more shaped by my trials and the broken places in my life where I’ve needed healing and hope.
In a note I scribbled down several months ago (I tend to get rid of my ramblings after a while), there was this phrase I wrote down that stayed with me. I wrote, “Through suffering, God has transformed my praise.” Christianity is so mysterious sometimes. God chooses suffering as the primary means of redemption, hope, and healing. Who could make this stuff up?
Here’s the prayer:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.