Years ago a Christian band called Hokus Pick used to tour Canada once or twice a year. They were a great bunch of guys who truly loved the Lord. I would often catch them in concert and even promoted a handful of shows for them. Every time they toured, they did so with a different opening band and their tongue-in-cheek boast was that every band who opened for them immediately broke up after the tour. I guess this wasn’t far from the truth, though I’m sure it was mere coincidence. One of the bands that toured with them was called Doulos. I don’t think they survived for long after the tour, but one of their songs continues to be a favorite of mine. It is called, simply. “Again.” The song captures something precious to me.
my mouth is empty
shame surrounds me
I feel what I say can’t be heard or shouldn’t be
again I’m jumping into darkness
not knowing if my feet will land again
again I’m caught and made innocent
as I land in a pool of blood
how many times can the gift of life be given
I stand still and weep again
As we would expect, the song is tied together in the chorus. It is a simple chorus, containing only one line. “How long till I become holy.” But the line is not sung with great joy and excitement, but rather almost as a groan or a cry. “Oh, how long till I become holy?” I assume this song was inspired, at least in part, by Romans 8. And if you look to that passage, you may be struck by the sheer volume of groaning in the verses. It is not just believers who groan, but rather it is Christians, Creation and the Holy Spirit who are said to be groaning.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The world was made perfect and holy, but through the sin of our first parents, Creation fell with us. And now, as if to show that this is an unnatural state, all of Creation cries out to God for the end of such sin and torment. The hills wait for the day when they can sing praise to God and the trees wait to clap their hands in joy and freedom. This personification of nature, as found in Isaiah, shows us that the whole world waits with us for redemption and the end of sin.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Christians, those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, also groan as we wait for the final consummation. We groan inwardly as our spirits cry out to God. We know that sin is foreign to us as beings created in the image of God and our hearts cry out for an end to sin. Some also cry outwardly, eagerly anticipating the end of pain, suffering and physical affliction. It is this cry that is the subject of the song. “Oh, how long till I become holy?” How long must it be, Lord, before you take away this death and this corruption? How long before you make me who I so badly want to be? How long before you take me to the presence of the One I long to see?
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” But we do not groan alone. No, for we have Divine aid. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our cries to God. When I feel weak in prayer, the Holy Spirit is there, helping me. Even when I do not know how or what to pray, the Spirit knows, and stands between myself and the Father, presenting to him prayers that express what is best. Where I am limited by limited knowledge, the Spirit is not. He takes my prayers and conforms them to the Father’s will before bringing them before the Throne of Grace. When I pray in Jesus’ name, humbling myself before His sovereignty, I offer my will and desires to him, and truly seek “the good” that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:28. I acknowledge that in my humanness I would make a mess of even the most trivial decisions; I trust that God knows best.
And so until that great day when the world is finally perfected, the Holy Spirit groans with the Creation and with believers, as together we cry out for the new heaven and the new earth. And with the songwriter and with Christians through the ages, I groan at the burden of my own sin. But despite my hatred of sin I do the very thing I least want to do and jump once again into the darkness only to find myself caught again in a pool of blood. I am forgiven again and wonder within myself just how many times God can forgive me and just how long His patience can last. Often I pause to weep, either at the depth of my own depravity or at the height of God’s grace. And all the while I cry out, “Oh, how long? How long, oh Lord, before you make me fully, truly, purely, finally holy?”
Here’s one I dug out of the archives and tidied up some.