A wave of anxiety hit me early Sunday evening. I’m not sure why; there didn’t seem to be any concrete trigger for it. But it did. Because of that anxiety, I went to my evening prayer earlier than usual. I also changed my routine for that evening prayer. I usually end my evening prayer with a hymn from a playlist I’ve compiled on YouTube. Tonight, though, I decided to start with a hymn. I felt I needed something to move me through the anxiety before I began praying, and I thought a hymn was just the thing. As it turned out, I was right.
The hymn I choose to listen to was “Holy, Holy, Holy”, a hymn I’ve been singing since I was 12. I listened to this version by Audrey Assad.
As I listened, something in these lyrics I have known almost all my life “caught my attention”. It was the final line in the second verse, the line “perfect in power, in love, and purity”.
As I heard that line, I was reminded of a truth about God I’ve been thinking of recently, the truth of God’s perfection. By that term perfection, I mean that God is everything He ought to be, everything He needs to be, everything it is good to be. I think that’s what the author of that hymn meant as well. And I was thankful that God is perfect like that; I was thankful that my God (the only God, the one true God who has revealed Himself to me and to the world) is perfect.
I also realized, though, that I don’t regard God as perfect. I don’t consistently regard Him as perfect. I don’t regard Him as perfect all the time, perfect in every way. I regard Him as being perfect in power, as the hymn says; I have no problem with that. I regard Him as being perfect in purity as well; I have no problem with that, either. But I don’t always regard Him as perfect in love. I don’t always regard Him as perfect in goodness. I don’t always regard Him as having the perfect will, that is, of always and only willing and thus accomplishing what is good for me. Oh, I believe He is perfect that way in my head; if you would ask my if I have a “theology of God’s perfect goodness”, I would say, “Of course!” But I don’t always believe He is perfect that way in my heart. My emotions don’t match my intellect here. In fact, I tend to see God less as one who is perfect in goodness as the YHWH God, the Father of Jesus, is presented in the Bible and more like Odin as he is presented in the movie Eric the Viking (which I saw on cable as a kid).
Yes, though my head knows otherwise, my heart still tends to suspect that God is mostly unconcerned about me, that God has to be convinced to be concerned about me, to be cajoled into doing what is best for me. That’s why I pray as poorly as I do, why my prayers are mostly me begging God to do what I want Him to do. That’s also why I get seized by anxieties both triggered and non-triggered.
But this song told me this evening that this suspicion is untrue. It told me that God is not unconcerned for me as Odin is unconcerned about people, that God’s perfection includes His will and goodness and love. And just like that, the anxiety went away. It was dispersed by a confrontation with this truth, the truth of the complete perfection of my God and what that complete perfection means for me.
That’s what I saw on August 18, 2019.