“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my Heart;
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou Art.”
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)
Have you spent time recently with someone who is young and “in love” for the first time? You may spend time with them, but their time, their thoughts, their energy, their conversation– all revolves around their loved one. All the other things in life are secondary, and life is lived on auto-pilot. They forget to eat; forget to do even the most ordinary tasks, and daydream through whatever tasks they do manage to complete. What time is it? What are they wearing? Is the snowing? Raining? Have they spoken to their parents today? They don’t know! They don’t care. But they can tell you how long it has been since they’ve spoken to “that” person. They remember what they wore, what they ate last night, what they said two days ago, and how their hair reflected the moonlight…
God is not so foolishly forgetful as we are, but he loves us with that same kind of abandon…he knows the very hairs on our head. He knows our thoughts and every joy and hurt in our heart. He loves the sound of our name, and the sound of our voice as we call to him. He longs for the same ardent love from us.
When we sing a line like “nought be all else to me, save that Thou art,” or we read the Apostle Paul talk about everything else in his life being rubbish or garbage, we are not literally saying that everything is worthless, or that we would rather sit alone in a darkened room than to live our lives in the world and interact with those around us. God has not called us to be hermits who pray in locked rooms on our knees for 20 hours a day. He does not call us to fast to the point of starvation, or shun all human contact. Jesus himself did not despise food or rest or people.
But He did say some startling things about the importance of God in relation to all the things of this world. God gave us wonderful gifts– sunlight, water, food, blue sky, grass and trees, families and friends. God wants us to enjoy them–AS GIFTS. Never should we love the gift more than the giver. Never should we take the gifts for granted or forget that they are gifts– not earned, not the work of our own hands. If we are not careful, they can become idols and distractions. Suddenly, we are torn in our affections. God wants us to love our neighbor, but not to worship her/him. God wants us to nurture our families, but he wants to be part of that process, not left on the sidelines. God wants us to use our talents and our gifts to benefit others. And God’s gifts, while always “good” are not always pleasant or easy. Loving others can be risky and exhausting. Putting God first often means sacrifice and ridicule. And some of God’s gifts may be wrapped in hardship. When we experience tragedy, like a house fire, that is not a “gift” from God. But God will send us gifts even in times of grief or stress– an understanding friend, a temporary shelter, a renewed sense of purpose–in the midst of our darkest moments.
Young love, while ardent and intense, often burns itself out. TV shows and football games become more “important” than deep conversation and longing looks. “He makes me laugh,” turns into, “he never takes anything seriously.” “She walks in beauty like the night,” becomes, “She snores like a pig!” Worse, we take for granted that we know each other “well enough.” God knows this– he warns us that the same thing can happen to us in our relationship with Him. We can easily be pulled away or lulled into a false sense that “all is well” even as we drift off course. We need reminders of God’s rightful place in the center of our attention– our focus and vision fixed on Him.
“Nought be all else to me” isn’t about the things of this life disappearing or being worthless; it’s about them being “worth” less than the one who rules over all things.