Yearning to be filled, filled up to capacity to the full measure of God's own fullness -- possible? to be filled like the ocean, deep, with its waters reaching always heavenward, splashing to the shore -- possible? to be filled like the skies, air and clouds all rising higher and the glory of the sunlight reflecting everywhere -- possible? It's more than what I thought about, picturing a cup filled up to the brim -- for he fills everything -- so is it possible for me to be filled to the full measure of God? the Creator, Maintainer, the King of Everything and filling it all, totally? I'm yearning. Fill me!
I was at the beach at Grand Bassam, where a stretch of hotels lines the Gulf of Guinea, to the east of the big city of Abidjan, one of our favorite places to rest. The sun was scorching, but the waves and skies were glorious. Two pineapple sellers walked by, and I suddenly realized I was craving that sweet fruit and its delectable juice that would be running down my hot chin and arms if I had one. No debate: they had a sale! They carved off the tough quilted skin, leaving just enough stem for me to hold on to. Done. It was so satisfying.
In the dry season in Côte d’Ivoire, thirst is a constant. And often clean drinking water is not accessible. One day in the village of Tiepogovogo one of the older boys figured out how to assuage his thirst. He walked down the dry gravel road to the cashew groves where ripe cashew fruit was hanging from the branches, picked a few and tore off the cashew nuts attached to each fruit to leave there on the ground for the owner, then brought back the treasures to share with other thirsty kids. They all began passionately sucking out the juice, some of it dripping down to their elbows. The atmosphere changed from the silence of parched thirst to slurps of delight.
That yearning for good stuff that meets our need and fills us up is a powerful picture in the Word. One reassuring instance that comes to mind is in Psalm 23, where the Good Shepherd feeds me in the wilderness and fills my cup to overflowing. It is picked up in Ephesians 1:23:
[The church] is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:23 NIV)
The part that incited the poem above was that last information about Christ, “who fills everything in every way.” He fills the universe! And he fills the church. I am his, and he fills everything in every way . . . but I was all too aware of my ongoing need to be filled by him. I was thirsty, I was hungry for his empowerment to be like him. And I was feeling my insignificance before the One who fills the space and earth, and reigns over it all.
The fourth beatitude (Matthew 5:10) actually applauds that hunger and thirst! But it also clarifies that the delectable fruit we should be yearning for, in this case, is righteousness. This is different from searching for experiences; it is about change in our person. In the first three beatitudes we’ve seen that the one who is experiencing blessing, or happy well-being, is the person who has acknowledged their deep need for forgiveness and the gift of rescue, who grieves their own sin as well as the injustice in the world, who is learning to accept their own imperfections and find their confidence in the Lord. Now they are incited to actually chase after being completely upright the way that God is, doing what is right, because that is what he is like and what he loves:
For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face. (Ps. 11:7 NIV)
Jesus has justified us, and that is why we are able to stand before the King of All Things. But it is not to stop there, it is an ongoing process. We are to long for change in how we think and act – actually, a transformation of our broken being into the wholeness that comes from complete attachment to God. We need his help to become like him. And he loves it when we get desperate to be filled with that great good fruit that he alone is able to produce. He promises to do it through his Spirit, in us. Open to his working, filled with him, hungry and thirsty to be filled with that fruit, it can be produced in us, goodness and other qualities that accompany it:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23a NLT)
See the last two words of the list of fruit of the Spirit? We’ve just recognized, in the third beatitude, that happy well-being comes when we can practice gentle self-control – and that is fruit that his Spirit produces in us! If we hunger and thirst for character that naturally overflows with his excellent produce, his fruit, our yearning to be righteous like him will be satisfied.
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:5 NIV)
What does it mean to be righteous? It means, as the Psalm 11: 7 says, to love justice and to live according to his standards. It certainly does not mean to cling to my rights! It means to acknowledge what God considers right, to know his Word and to apply it correctly, to turn from wrongdoing and practice his commands. This will be underlined later in the Sermon on Mount:
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19 NIV)
It is not an instantaneous achievement. Just as we need more than one cup of water a day, and more than just one meal each week, so we need that daily interaction with our Lord, our whole being open to him.
And when we are open to his work in us through the Spirit, learning to know him better and better, we will be filled. We will be changed. It is a daily, step-by-step process:
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25 NIV)
So even if the sun is hot and the air is so dry it parches your windpipe, keep running down the road toward this orchard of juicy fruit. It will be worth the run, and for a few hours your hunger and thirst will be assuaged. And then you will want more. Our Lord approves that ongoing desire for just the right fruit!