During a recent meeting for worship, one of the most dangerous songs in the history of Christian hymnody began echoing inside my head…
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee.
Take my moments and my days — let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Oh, it starts out sweetly enough, a sort of generic offering of self to God. Yes, there is something nice about being grateful and making myself available to God, to be willing to be useful should an opportunity ever arise.
But clearly the trajectory of the song moves quickly from safe and sane to entirely reckless in the matter of a few stanzas. That simple and very general surrender of my “life” to God becomes pointedly particular throughout the remaining verses.
Take my hands . . . feet . . . voice . . . lips . . .
Wait a minute! Now the actual content of my day, what I do and say is to become part of an offering to God?!? We need to slow down here! I am not ready to sign off on anything too drastic without some better definition of what this may mean . . .
Take my silver and my gold . . .
Whoa, now! This is just crazy talk! God can’t possibly manage my bank account — He is way too generous to handle my money in a responsible fashion!?!
Take my intellect . . . power . . . love . . . self . . . will . . . heart.
Mercifully, the song comes to an end — but only after nothing else is left to give away . . .
Sung with even a hint of integrity, there is now nothing left of me, nothing to call my own, as the most precious and privately held aspects of my life are no longer mine to use or control. Who writes stuff like this?!? And who dares to pray/sing words like these?
In A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly suggests the depth of holy obedience is only experienced when we disown our whole selves — over against individual aspects of our lives. In response to God’s loving presence, we give up managing and controlling ourselves in order to become fully dispossessed and disposed for God’s use and control.
Stewardship is a word we sometimes confuse for “management.” If we are “good stewards” we will “manage” whatever resource we are considering with diligence and an eye toward God’s interests. That is a “nice” definition — a safe and sane one — but, which often fails to take seriously the dangerous notion that even we belong to God, not just the stuff in our care. This not-so-subtle distinction reshapes everything, moving the focus from our control over how well we will align with the nature and character of God, to whom all things now belong.
The God I see exploding off the pages of scripture and emerging in my own experience is one of exuberant grace. God is overwhelming mercy and compassion, acting for the world even in face of continual rejection. God’s lavish love risks and gives all for the sake of all. God makes Light available to everyone — so that none need walk in darkness — when misers like me are much more apt to only shine it when necessary.
Take my life and Let it be Consecrated is, indeed, a dangerous anthem that awakens me to my own stingy reluctance and selfishness. In a world full of need and opportunity, the Friends of Jesus are commended to be “cheerful givers.” Interestingly, the root word for cheerful in Greek is “hilarious.” More than being happy to share, it means being willing to disown ourselves so that God’s spirit of reckless abandon and exuberant grace is reflected through us and leaves the world laughing with delight. As we Friends walk “cheerfully” over all the earth, may we also do it in a faithful and selfless spirit of hilarity!