So pants my soul for you

This post may need a contextual setting.  Elements of it were born in our chapel service on Tuesday this week, a deep musical reflection on Psalms 42-43.  I’d wanted to escape the room because I don’t love performed worship where I can’t sing too.  Whatever else my spirituality may be, there’s a healthy dose of charismatic evangelical in there!  And as the minutes passed, I’d then wanted to escape the room because the relentlessness of the words, sung over and over in different settings, forced me to admit that the debilitating longing of the Psalmist was mine too.  So I began to write there in chapel.  It was that or floods of tears.  Something had to give.  Now in this post I’ve set my words against interludes of Psalms 42-43 and a few verses in Isaiah 26.  I’ve used Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle to give words to what I’ve hardly known before how to name.  It is raw.  More raw than I usually give voice to in this space.  But it is the truest thing I know how to write in this season as he rearranges my heart in ways I’d forgotten how to dream about.


As a deer pants for the flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  Yes, I wait for you, your name and remembrance the desire of my soul.  

My soul longs for you.  I have no words.  It hurts and the tears flow.  Everything in me cries out.

So pants my soul for you.

Yet though my soul longs, yet I turn away.  I turn away for to be turned to your face burns, oh God.  Teresa talks of courage in the drawing near (VI.5.1).  Courage indeed is needed here.  Easier always to turn away, at the last to balk.

When shall I come and appear before God?  Cast down, in turmoil, yet shall I hope.

Somehow there is little I can do.  Teresa says this too.  That we can do nothing in this work done by the Lord (V.2.1).  Yet she tells me to let His Majesty have a free hand, that he will give more than we know how to desire because we are striving and making every effort to do what we can about this love (V.3.12).  And I believe her.  That you will give me that for which I wait.

My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit seeks you.

Purify me, dear Lord, that I might be able to face the purifying flame.  Remove from me all that resists you, that I may become more fully surrendered to you.  Even now, I feel that I would break at your touch.  If you drew near and gave me what I asked for, you might destroy me.  The passion which is this longing is too great for me.  My soul is not yet strong to contain this longing’s satisfaction.

You keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on you, who practises your presence.

Indeed, oh Lord, I seek to practise your presence.  To enter more deeply into this union which is your gift to me.  Yet unless you shore up the boundaries of my soul I may not survive this wrestling match.  My soul is not yet substantial enough to grapple with you.  It dissolves when you draw near.  The pain of your nearness is delightful yet great in wounding (VI.2.4).

By day you command your steadfast love.  By night your song is with me.  All this indeed a prayer to the God of my life.

So, Lord, I wait.  Your name and remembrance truly my desire.  Yes, Lord, I wait.  Until I am made ready to face the flame, ready to see you in your cether.  And I invite you, as I wait, to dismantle all my defences.  Though I fear to be defenceless, yet I know that it is better to be surrounded by your songs of deliverance than my own.  Though I fear this dismantling, yet I know that only by this route an overshadowing and a carrying.

These things I remember as I pour out my soul.

That you are faithful.  That even now you are working deeper than I can know.  And that surely I have no good apart from you.  Because of these, so let it be to me according to your word.


Statue of Teresa of Avila
Photo credit

3 thoughts on “So pants my soul for you

  1. I was reading Psalm 42 yesterday myself, before reading this post… It is exactly where my heart is at the moment: realising that there is nothing in this world that is going to satisfy my soul apart from Him! Things I have longed for since I can remember, ‘the desires of my heart’, a husband and a family (I’m so grateful for them!) I have realised are not enough!
    “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls…” There is such depth to be found in Him & indeed, He wants to work and reach so deeply in to us. There is more, so much more, so much more! – but only in Him.
    Yes it is a longing, a yearning, an ache, isn’t it? And only His presence can satisfy; only He can lead us to & reveal to us & indeed be the ‘more’, the ‘enough’, the ‘satisfaction’, the ‘abundance’!
    ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’
    ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’
    ‘I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free.’
    FREEDOM! I long for the fullness of life, the freedom of being contained by Him, hemmed in by Him, consumed by Him, overwhelmed by Him (‘your waves and breakers have swept over me’). It is a longing like no other!
    The passionate pursuit of His presence: yes. Practising His presence: yes. I’m not always sure how; but yes!
    A friend introduced me to your blog a few days ago. Grateful. Be blessed!
    And have a listen to these songs; I hope they resonate:
    Jason Upton – In Your Presence:
    Bethel – I Can Feel You:
    Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – Cageless Birds:

    • His waves and breakers…one of my favourite ideas in this Psalm! Love that you have commented – thanks. And I had a little look at your blog yesterday morning when you signed up. I resonate with some of your most recent posts and have walked a path of depression myself, which I believe has been part of my own experience of the darkness of God. Yet each of us is different and what was for me an experience of him (albeit a painful one I don’t wish to repeat – ever!) may be for someone else a physiological condition which can benefit from more practical interventions.

      I know the Bethel song and shall check out the other two. Thanks for the recommendations!

  2. Yes, I am grappling with this myself: with increased awareness of depression as an ‘illness’, I have wondered, well, do I suffer from it? Simple as that. Nothing more to it.
    But I have been journeying (once again!) – thinking, talking, writing, praying – &, like you, I feel this is all an experience of Him: an invitation in to something more. There is work for me to do; my response is required, my cooperation. But I am seeing things & confronting things that I think before I have walked away from, skirted over – or just plain not seen. The patterns of ‘depression’ have been too similar to see it as something outside of my walk with God (can anything really be outside of our walk with Him?) & it always seems to be an invitation, a beckoning, a drawing in, a delving deep, an uncovering, an exposing… There’s always more to give, to see, to surrender!
    Here are a few poems from over the years, where I’ve tried to capture the feeling!

    Hope I’m not bombarding you! I enjoy the exchange & the resonance. It’s an emptying process, ultimately, isn’t it? I empty myself of all, Lord; come in to my emptiness & ‘fill my cup to overflowing’! An incredible paradox.
    I’ll stop there! Think you’ll appreciate the Cageless Birds song (it’s actually the name of a songwriters’ collective but I just discovered them about three days ago!) And discovered the Helsers a few weeks ago, when I heard their song, ‘Abba’. You should look that up too!
    Right, lovely to exchange with you, Chloe!

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