I've been hunkered down two weeks now in my hidey-hole in Wales, this replica of Narnia. Have I changed? My breathing, I think, has slowed to match the easy rhythms of the land around me, and maybe I've lost a few pounds. But I've not improved my Yahtzee skills at all, though I play it most nights. And I almost lapsed into paganism: I had a moment of Wall-Street hubris, of all-consuming corporate greed, when I fought back from near bankruptcy to entirely crush my rivals – Cheryl and Nicola – in a sprawling take-no-prisoners game of Monopoly that spanned three nights. But I recovered from that, and once again am humbly content with the simple life. I do not need a hotel on Park Lane to be happy.
I am, all told, deeply content but otherwise ordinary. I am recognizably myself: a tad impatient, a little fretful, easily distracted, given to spells of brooding. I keep waiting for some epiphany, some startling dazzling insight, to break in on this magnificent solitude, and change me in a twinkling. And then I remind myself that such things are rare, and come mostly unbidden, unexpected, undeserved. You bend one day to fetch a stick of wood, or step out of the shower and reach for a towel, or spy the shape of a face in the clouds, and then suddenly it's on you, flooding in from nowhere and everywhere, turning you inside out.
I haven't had that yet.
And most change takes work.
A line from a book I've been reading has been working me over hard. The book is called A Diary of Revival, documenting, mostly from the personal correspondences and diary entries of eyewitnesses and key figures, the events and personalities that marked the 1904 Welsh Revival. One of the most prominent figures of that revival, the one whose name is most associated with it, is Evan Roberts. Roberts was a coal miner before he was a preacher (indeed, he fulfilled a prophecy that God was going to raise up a man from the mine or the farm, not the seminary, to bring revival).
As a teenager, Roberts was marked by a hunger for God's word, and he read and pondered the Scriptures at every opportunity. He kept a Bible in the mine shafts, to read on his breaks, and one day, when he was absent, an explosion in the mine burnt his Bible and strewed its pages every which way. Roberts went searching for its remnants, crawling through the rubble, digging for the torn and scattered pages. He described it this way: "I had to go out and seek the truth on my knees."
That's the line that's working me over: I had to go out and seek the truth on my knees.
The story that is most often told about the anointing for revival that God placed on Roberts happened on September 29, 1904, at a church gathering in Blaenannerch (not far from where I'm staying). Roberts, in a sudden fit of zeal that stunned those who witnessed it, prayed for God to "bend" him. It was an act of surrender. It was throwing himself utterly on the mercy of God and giving himself wholly to the purposes of God. He was asking to be bent to the divine will, conformed to Christ. It was like Isaiah saying "Here I am, send me." It was like Christ saying, "Not my will, but yours be done."
It's was an amazing moment – an epiphany. I don't doubt, as historians claim, it was the turning point, the spark that lit Revival in Wales and then sent it around the world.
But I think this other moment – a young man, prepared to serve the rest of his days in manual labor if that was God's bidding, stooped and clambering in the dark and mess of a collapsed mine to find one more page, and another, and another, of the book he loved – I think this is significant, too. This is the precursor to being bent, to being sent.
I have been praying two things here: "Lord, bend me." And, "Lord, may I go out to seek the truth on my knees."
I commend these prayers to everyone. But particularly, I believe at least one young man or woman will read this and hear these prayers as God's personal assignment. God's intimate call.
All God needs to start the fire is someone hungry enough, desperate enough, broken enough, available enough, to seek the truth on their knees, and to let God bend them.
Is it you?