excerpted from Amy Carmichael's Gold by Moonlight.
So we pray, and in answer to our prayer the blessed light is given. For light is like water (and like love); remove whatever forbids it, and nothing can hold it back.
But it can be only too easily forbidden. "Curious inquisition of other men's living" can forbid it: "Son, be not curious, nor be busy. What is this or that to thee? Follow thou Me. What is that to thee, whether such a man be such and such, or what this man doth, or what he saith? Thou hast no need to answer for others, but for thyself thou must yield account." Indifference to the concern of others is equally forbidding. "Pour out Thy grace from above; wash my soul in that heavenly dew that I may be enlarged in vision." There is much happiness then, for we see the sunlight fall on all the trees of the forest, and this is better than only to see it fall on the one little cherished tree that we think of as our own.
Sometimes there is a peculiar joy in this. We may be set in a place where conversion does not open doors to the Gospel but closes them, perhaps for years. But elsewhere it is different. We may seem to be fighting a loosing battle, but somewhere else they are winning. If we look out on the field which is the world there is always something to be glad about.
And in smaller matters it is the same. The things I cannot do, another can. The things I do poorly, another can do well. There is a peculiarly golden quality in this kind of joy. It fills the quiet spaces of the heart with singing.
But it may be broken by even a moment's occupation with self, for self is clamorous, and where that clamour is, the air is too unquiet for songs. If like the Spanish traveller Ulloa and his friends, and like some of us on our Indian mountains, like the airman too, when he ascends high above the earth, we see the shadow of our own image in the circle that is flung upon the mist, then we see nothing else, hear nothing but the noisy talk of self. This "I" that is myself can disturb our very holiest things. The passionate longing (for it is indeed a passion and a pain) to be the one to rise and serve is the last thing to die in the heart the loves its fellows and finds its joy in serving them, just as the last prayer we drop is the prayer that we (with the emphasis on the we) may be used.
Is this a hard saying? But why? The pen on the desk is kept clean and filled with ink. The pencil is kept pointed. Both are ready, both are at hand; sometimes one is used, sometimes another; if only the work be done, what does it matter which does it? There can be a subtle selfishness, a kind of covetousness which is idolatry (of self) in the perpetual cry, Use me.
But there is nothing for that in the prayer, Cleanse me, O Lord, and keep me clean; make me sensitive to the approach of sin. Make me quick to hear Thy question, "Whom shall I send?" and quick to answer, "Here am I," quick also to be glad if another be preferred before me. Nor is there anything selfish in such a prayer as this,
Love through me, Love of God,
Make me like Thy clear air
That Thou dost pour Thy colours through,
As though it were not there.
There is nothing of earth, thank God, in the soaring rapture of the winged words--His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads--O joy beside which all joys pale, we welcome thee. We see thee drawing nearer, we almost hear thy footsteps, and we greet thee.
But there are days when the spirit, growing impatient, pushes far past the body's permissions and seems to spring out between its bars, and then is caught back and held fast again. And yet even then we know that when those bars fall, and in the twinkling of an eye our mortal has put on immortality, nothing will matter to us but that in the brief waiting time we did not grieve the love that trusted us to wait.
And while we wait, as it seems in strict bondage, we are not bound, we are free; we are free as happy birds that never knew a cage. No bars can forbid the soul to soar: One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (not only afterwards but now, in this daily present), to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.
And, so I take it, we may understand the Jerusalem of that little old book, The Scale of Perfection, very simply. Today, in this prosaic today, surrounded by the common things of life, beset by its common temptations, pledged to its common duties, we may be at home in our Father's house; becoming, because of His patient work upon us, more and more like children of that House, "even thirsting and softly seeking" His blessed Presence so that others may be drawn to seek Him and with Him also continually dwell.