Sometimes I read from Amy Carmichael, devotional titled, IF. The copy I hold is one of the original blue coloured paperbacks, printed in 1943; as she requested then, without her name. I found the copy in a second hand bookshop while serving in Ghana in 1995.
Carmichael’s book is primarily a series of brief reflections on 1 Corinthians 13; each beginning with the words, “If I . . . ” Carmichael advices that not all the “if’s” are of equal value in a given time; perhaps only one or two, and then in another season, other “if’s.” Following is one that recently caught my attention; it’s about hope and faith:
“If I cannot catch the sound of noise of rain long before the rain falls, and, going to some hilltop of the spirit, as near to my God as I can, have not faith to wait there with my face between my knees, thought six times or sixty times I am told ‘there is nothing,’ till at last ‘there arises a little cloud out of the sea,’ then I know nothing of cavalry love,”
Carmichael draws the devotional to a close, with reflections on the Lord’s grace towards our failings. Following are some abridged quotes from the text. These thoughts arise from Carmichael’s reading of John 1:16, “grace for grace.” They provide some helpful relations between God’s love and grace as water poured out upon our thirst and lack.
“The more we ponder our Lord’s words about love . . . the more acutely we feel our lack. . . . But there is a lifting up.
He is willing . . . willing as water is willing to flow into an emptied channel. Help comes from John 1:16: “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
The word might be rendered, “instead.” The image is of a perpetual succession of supply; a displacement ever going on, ceaseless changes of need and filling. The picture is as of a river. Stand on its banks. And contemplate the flow of waters. A minute passes, and then another. Is it the same stream still? Yes. But is it the same water? No.
The water that passes a few seconds ago, fills now another part of the channel. New water has displaced it. Water instead of water. And so hour by hour, year by year, century by century, the process holds; one stream, other waters, living not stagnant, because always in the great flow, there is perpetual exchange. Grace takes the place of grace; (Love take the place of love), ever new, ever old, ever the same, ever fresh . . . through Christ.
“O Lord . . . Let it be your pleasure to deliver me, O Lord my God. . . . Deep unto deep, O Lord, cries in me . . . Love through me, Love of God.
This grace is no mere impersonal substance, but God working in us. . . It is the river’s word again. The empty riverbed inherits the water that pours through it from the heights, it does not create that water, it only receives it, and its pools overflow for the blessing and refreshment of the land. It is so with us our treasures of time, our years with all their months, weeks, days, hours, minutes are filled with the flowing treasure of love that we may help others.
Let us end on a very simple note. Our Lord speaks: “Trust me, my child.” Trust me with a fuller abandon to me, trust me to pour out my love through you, as minute succeeds minute. Do not hinder the flow by going away from me in discouragement. Draw all the closer to me, tell me about your trouble. Trust me to remove the boulder that has choked your riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will perfect that which concerns you.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst, for they shall be filled.”