“Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.”
1 Chronicles 16:11
Friday a student blurted out an incredibly rude comment to me and I had to send him into the hallway till I could step out and deal with it. When I had a moment – and the sanity – to confront him, it was a bizarre discussion. I stood facing him and he continued to contort his body so he didn’t have to look me in the face as we discussed his behavior – a response that did not escape my notice. After a few minutes of trying to line myself up in his eyesight and watching him fidget away and set his focus on the wall across the way, I confronted him on not making eye contact. He sheepishly allowed his eyes to meet mine for a few seconds and promptly looked away again.
In the past few weeks I feel there have been a few common themes in the various scriptures I’ve been reading, but one concept seems to be rising above some others. Just as this student only reluctantly made eye contact with me, I feel convicted that his attitude strongly reflects my posture before the Lord. Over and over in the Word I’ve read three simple words: “Seek His Face.” But what does that really mean?
I confess I was hoping there would be some deeper meaning and that an intense word study would reveal a mystery about our response to His goodness. But no. The specific words mean this… Seek (“to seek, search consult”) His Face (“face”). Yeah, my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance didn’t really blow that one wide open for me. Actually, I laughed when I saw those definitions. I think I was hoping it meant something different since it’s so plain – and it’s the simplicity of the command I find so challenging.
We live in a world where “facetime” is a luxury. Or, in some cases, is just plain awkward. Facebook, twitter, texts… we’re surrounded by ways to avoid not only people’s voices, but their very faces. Communication has become two-dimensional and void of personality. In an attempt to make our world more accessible, we’ve managed to dehumanize ourselves. Even in the toughest of times we rarely seek the face-to-face contact of another loved one, but rather satisfy ourselves with empty platitudes zipped along the world wide web or a 3g network.
There have been a few stages in my life where I’ve moved a significant distance, removing me from convenient face-to-face relationship. As a result, some of my closest friends live anywhere from 2 to 7 hours away from me, making that face-time a true delight. Moving from Birmingham to Knoxville at age 16 was a shock, and my friends and I wrote letters (yes, actual letters! I’ve saved some!) to keep in touch since long-distance phone calls were so expensive. Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, but this was before cell phones and the wide-spread use of internet. (Yes, there was such a time.)
Handwriting has always been something that I’ve deeply treasured. There’s nothing like getting a hand-addressed envelope in the mail and recognizing the script that has lovingly inked my name. My oldest and dearest friend Robin used to send me letters a lot. She still does; it’s one of the precious ways we communicate. And seeing her handwriting (which has hardly changed over the last two decades!) brings an immediate thrill of the intimacy of our life-long friendship.
The Bible is God’s letter to us. In this impersonal world where we can access His Word on the internet and perform word searches and cross-comparisons, there’s still something special about hearing the pages crinkle as I thumb through the NASB Bible I’ve used for study since 1998. When I see the text I can immediately recognize it as my Bible and the place I receive the Lord’s testimony on a frequent, if not daily, basis. So why is it that if Robin writes me a letter and says “I’d like to see you” I’ll make the arrangements to jump in my car as soon as time allows, but when the Lord says “Seek my face” I’m so reluctant to do just that?
Yet God’s word stays the same. He continues to call us to deeper intimacy. Just like my student refusing to look me in the eye to discuss his behavior, he also lost the opportunity to hear me tell him that I genuinely care about his education – I want him to learn and pay attention for his own good. Yes, sometimes God needs us to seek His face so he can make a correction to our path. But other times He wants us to make “eye”-contact with Him because it’s a place of connection and deeper relationship. Just like my husband and I can spend time together working on a task, running errands, or watching TV… these things are meaningless without the added intimacy of conversation allowing us to speak face-to-face.
Clearly looking into God’s “face” is a figurative thing. I’m not suggesting there is a way for us to note His eye color or the proportions of His features, but there is a way for us to sit quietly and contemplate Him. How often do I “spend time with Him” while driving down the interstate and calling out some requests? Just like that would never increase the depth an intimacy of my relationship with Bronce, it doesn’t work with God either. Just stop. Listen. Respond. Let your spirit be filled.
Psalm 37:7 begins “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” – and the “rest” in that verse isn’t the kind of rest that means “take a break, relax” but rather the kinds that means “Stop. Just stop.” How often do I just STOP and wait for the Lord? Stop what you’re doing. Stop the action and distraction. Seek Him. Quit shoving requests before Him as though He’s a vending machine of happy stuff. I’m not saying He doesn’t care, just that He’d like more of you than your solicitations.
What does it mean to “Seek His Face”? I think it’s different for each of us. But I challenge you to take the time to do it. Can you sit quietly before the Lord for 10 minutes? Fifteen? Twenty? Our lives are busy, but if we eagerly desire this time with Him, He’ll help us find the minutes. See what happens…