For as long as I can remember, I have loved to kneel. I think it has struck me as a position that is appropriate for a Christian. Kneeling, to me, implied humility, a servant heart, a spirit of supplication, a vulnerability that trusts God to be my defender and vindication. In the little missionary-kid school I went to as a child, we would have a time of intercession on Tuesday mornings. I remember deliberately shifting to a kneeling position when the moment for prayer came. It felt right, and I was proud of the criss-cross pattern from the colourful woven straw mat that was imprinted on my knees when I got up.
It then logically followed to make my life-motto something that struck me as both poetic and appropriate: ‘Live life on your knees, loving God and serving people’.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I was on my knees at a worship meeting a few years ago, and a lady came up to me and said ‘I was praying, and felt like God wanted me to share this with you: there are two people, one standing at the front of a meeting, hands raised high, and the other at the back, kneeling. The first person is your husband, and the second is you. I feel like God is saying He wants you to stand up next to your husband.’ It was a good word, an encouraging word; why did I feel offended?
The Helper has been showing me, in his inimitably gentle way, that I liked kneeling for a few reasons that are not appropriate to a Christian: fear and shame. I liked kneeling because I wanted to hide – no one can see your face if it is buried in the floor. I liked kneeling because it meant I didn’t have to make a choice as to which way to go; how could I, when I couldn’t even feel my legs?! I liked kneeling because it mirrored how I felt inside – not just humble, but also ashamed. Not just self-sacrificially servant-hearted, but also self-harmingly other-centred. Not just maintaining a spirit of world-changing intercessory supplication but also ‘keeping a low profile’ and ‘not sticking my neck out’ in a way that was too scared to actually try to change the world through my actions.
I am learning to ask my soul ‘why exactly are you downcast? Is your ‘humility’ just sanitised shame? Are you allowing the attacks of the Enemy to wash over you without lifting a finger to defend yourself?’
I was reading Psalm 45 recently, and in the margin of my Bible came pouring out these thoughts in impossibly small, curly cursive: ‘At your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. No longer is Mary of Bethany is crying. No longer is the woman caught in adultery naked and beaten. No longer is the woman with the issue of blood an impure and rejected outcast. No longer is Martha anxious and needy. Don’t live out only half the story. Have you met Jesus, the Lifter of your Head? Then stand up.’
Stand up, beloved!
We kneel in humility, yes, but not to submit to a heavy burden of the Enemy’s accusation or a heavy weight of negative emotion. The truth is, Jesus raises up the lowly to stand beside him, a pure and spotless Bride, head held high, washed in His blood, clothed in dignity and victory, unbeaten, unbowed.