Be One Who Lingers
When I was a student at Christ For The Nations Institute 40+ years ago, I was diligent to spend quality amounts of time every day with God. My practice was to pray and/or spend time reading Scripture for at least an hour before school began at 8AM. Many days I would also pray another thirty to forty-five minutes after our last class ended at noon. I would then rush to the cafeteria before it closed at 1PM. During these forty-five minutes, I would pray and meditate over what I had learned that day, as well as anything Holy Spirit would bring to my mind. These times of lingering became special to me and I believe they were to the Lord, as well. Spending time with the Lord helped me develop a love for His presence. I was anything but a spiritual giant, only very hungry for God.
One definition of linger is “to leave slowly and hesitantly.” If you don’t find yourself leaving God’s presence slowly and hesitantly, there’s a short somewhere in the connection. When you truly connect with Him, it’s like a warm bed on a wintery morning - you don’t want to leave it. Regular visitors to the throne of grace become lingerers, pure and simple.
Charles Swindoll shares this story:
I vividly remember some time back being caught in the undertow of too many commitments in too few days. It wasn’t long before I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions throughout the day. Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable. I distinctly recall after supper one evening the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day. She hurriedly began, “Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ andIwilltellyoureallyfast.”
Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, “Honey, you can tell me...and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.”
I’ll never forget her answer: “Then listen slowly.”
You’ll never find yourself having to say to your heavenly Father, “Then listen slowly.” He has plenty of time for you and loves it when you linger in His presence. In fact, His biggest problem is our limited time with Him, not our lingering. We’re often in such a hurry we actually want Him to listen really fast. But He isn’t our spiritual Santa Claus, wanting us to take our two minutes in His lap, give Him our wish list, and be on our way. He is Abba-Papa.
David, the shepherd and psalmist who became king over Israel, was a lingerer; he loved being in God’s presence and he left slowly and hesitantly. David once said, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Notice the words dwell, behold, and meditate. Those are lingering terms. He also said, “O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8). You don’t make statements like that unless you’ve learned to linger.
First, we learn to linger, then He becomes addictive and we love to linger. Listen to David’s language: “I love the habitation of Your house.” I enjoy reading about David and his walk with God. It has been revealing and enriching to observe their relationship (His and God’s) in the Scriptures - the good, the bad, and the ugly. One thing I especially like is that David kept it real, sharing with God his most intimate thoughts. Whether he was joyful, discouraged, lonely, or on top of the world, David talked to the Lord about it. He knew God wanted to be involved in his world, and he wanted to be in God’s.
Eventually, a change came in their relationship, a change so subtle that most people never think about it. Many people love God’s presence. Thankfully, the worship movement of the last thirty to forty years has taught many of us the difference between singing and worshipping. And as we have learned to truly worship, we’ve discovered the glorious truth that it attracts His very presence (Psalm 22:3). Through this process, we’ve come to expect and enjoy the presence of the Lord.
David understood this and was a passionate lover of God’s presence. As much as he loved the Lord’s presence, however, David was never called “a man after God’s presence.” He had the awe-inspiring honor of being referred to by the Lord as “a man after My heart” (see Acts 13:22, italics mine). There can be a huge difference between pursuing God’s heart and experiencing His presence.
It is possible to be in a person’s presence and never make it into their heart. There are plenty of people I’m willing to hang out with, but very few I’ll allow into my heart. That part of me is reserved for the people I’ve spent enough time with to know I can trust their motives and intentions. I need to be confident my heart has value to them. It is breakable; I want it handled with care.
God is no different. His heart can be broken. His emotions can be wounded and His hopes dashed. He allows many into His presence but is much more selective with His heart. It’s important that we seek God’s heart. When we find it, hidden inside we will discover our purpose and destiny. His presence is free, but His heart will cost you time and effort. But oh, how worth the effort He is. Pay the price to find His heart, no matter what it costs you!
Our Father is not easily offended. He is patient and longsuffering, and His loving-kindness is extremely generous. But still, I can’t help but wonder if He doesn’t get hurt at the way we treat Him - and even push Him away. In America, we have turned our backs to Him, not allowing Him in our schools or public buildings. We lightly value His marriage covenant and redefine His standards of morality, calling bad, good and good, bad. Our moral compass has left true north and our children are looking for what is right and true. It is without a doubt that, as a nation, we have saddened our Maker.
However, His devotion and faithfulness are not like ours. He patiently waits for us to repent and ask for forgiveness, to come back into His presence and look for His heart. Papa’s loving arms are always ready to embrace us. Sadly, you may not encounter much competition on this quest for God’s heart. Many love His presence and are willing to sing a few songs once or twice a week to enter it. Few, however, are after His heart. Choose to become one who is.
Don’t settle for a cursory look; be a lingerer.
Talk to Him slowly, listen to Him slowly, and leave Him slowly.
A prayer you can pray:
Father, You are worthy of my time, attention, and the affections of my heart. You generously reward those who diligently seek the beauty of Your heart.
Forgive us for our impatience when approaching your throne, Lord. Like Joshua at the Tent of Meeting, we want to be those who love to linger in Your presence, leaving slowly and hesitantly, beholding Your beauty and meditating upon Your word. May we learn to linger more and more.
We pray for our great nation. Lord, send your mercy to America as you promised. Those of us who know and love You - remind us to always do the right thing, being influencers within our communities and areas where we live. May we stand for You and what You represent - life, love, truth, and compassion. May we bring Your presence and heart with us as we enter our schools, businesses, our workplaces, and colleges. May the times in Your presence cause us to be those filled with Your peace, showing Your mercy and love, no matter the circumstance. Save our great nation, Lord. We believe this is Your plan, and we are confident you are going to do so.
In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray...Amen.
We choose to be those who will linger in Your presence and seek after Your heart.
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.