“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings. Sunward I’ve climbed and enjoyed the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things you’ve not dreamed of…” – John Gillespie Magee Jr.

John Gillespie Magee Jr. was a fighter pilot in World War II. He penned this amazing poem on the freedom of flight. He died in an air crash at the age of 19, but not before leaving the world with the shimmering imagery comparing the natural ecstasy of flight, and its soaring to unknown heights and its feeling of unfettered freedom, to the extreme pleasures of actually reaching up and touching the face of God.

Surly definition: ill-tempered, glum, morose, moody, uncivil, sour, grumpy.

How rough and crusty, how ill-tempered this earthbound existence seems when compared to the ecstasy of touching God. In 1906, prior to the great Azusa Street Revival, Frank Bartleman had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. He said that afterward for days he could hardly hold a human conversation because of its unseemly earthly surliness. John Wesley, when he visited the early Moravian community in its first love of encounter with the abiding Presence commented, “I dwelt among a people whose conversation was in heaven.”

Jesus, when asked by John’s disciples, “Why do your servants not fast?” said, “When the bridegroom is gone then my servants will fast.” This was not a rebuke to John’s disciples. Jesus was saying, “You are living in the dispensation when I, the bridegroom, am with you now, but when I go I will inaugurate a new era of fasting that will take John’s fastings to an even higher level!” The Church, being the Bride of Christ, will long for Him and His coming in an even greater measure than John, just as the bride loves the bridegroom even more than the friend of the bridegroom. The bride’s fastings will be the channel for her ever-increasing longings, the flight pattern into the ecstasy of love.

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, declared over the children of Israel, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you went after Me in the wilderness!” It is in the wilderness of the 40-day fast that we find the flight of freedom from the surly bonds of earth and return to the devotion of our youth. All of these lesser pleasures usurping our soul’s affections are stripped away and we, being dead to everything, experience resurrection power and find pleasures at His right hand forever.

Lord, we pray that You would allure us into the wilderness and speak tenderly to us, tenderly to our souls. In love and compassion, draw us to Your heart and let us sing as we sang in the days of our youth. Betroth us to You forever. Come show your love to your bride again. Hosea 2.

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