April 14. It is not a day, but a date. A day is a twenty-four-hour period of time in which the average person accomplishes a number of mundane tasks. A date is defined as above, with the exceptions that “the average person” becomes an individual, and the tasks performed are anything but mundane–a day, in fact, on which even the leather upholstery of a vehicle’s seats or a paper napkin at a diner take on significance.
And 14 April 2012 was a date. On the surface, it seemed much like other days: I ran errands with my family, had a wonderful time of worship listening to an album by Calvary Chapel, and went to bed. But, deep in my heart, that day shall ever remain with me as the Day of Prayer Without Ceasing.
I awoke with an inexplicable need for the things of the Lord. I know I always need Him, but this was special. Somehow, every activity and every word seemed infused with the thought, “I must trust God today.” Really, truly trust-just cling to His presence. And so, as I ran errand after errand, I tried to fill the time between establishments with pure, glorious worship music. I still have some idea of what I heard–certainly songs on surrender by Ginny Owens, likely Sovereign Grace Music and Hillsong, almost certainly anything I could find by Don Moen… And yet, it really doesn’t matter what I heard that day, because my entire being was focused not so much on man’s words or the joyous poetry of the instrumentation as by the absolute majesty of the Lord of Hosts. Everything in me worshiped Him.
Of course, this did cause some conundrums once we all reached our various locations throughout the day. Case in point: When my family and I all stopped for milk shakes t a local diner, I found a paper napkin at my place and immediately got caught up in thinking how, unfolded, the thickness of the napkin would be similar to the onion-skin fragility of Bible pages–so much so that a witty remark by my sister went entirely unheeded for several moments. Perhaps you think that that level of concentration was unnecessary, even silly–and perhaps “the average person” would say that I ought to have been just slightly more practical. However, at least once in one’s lifetime, I think it’s entirely necessary to experience a “silly” or impractical day.
The fact is, I had no other true concerns at that time–no pressing responsibilities or great obligations. It was a Saturday, and I knew that failure to focus on the topics at hand would harm no one and nothing, save for a witty comment or two. So, I was free to really, deeply, fervently talk to God. Most of what that day encompassed was just praise, pure and simple–giving thanks in great blessings and small, rejoicing in God’s love and grace. It was returning home and working on a writing project, all the while being filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit. It was working out later, listening to a song recorded by Calvary Chapel whose lyrics I believed I had forgotten, only to find myself singing them joyfully once again after several years on the song’s subject.
No, 14 April wasn’t a date to write in a family Bible–or, for that matter, in an individual study Bible. It wasn’t miraculous or remarkable save in my own life. It taught an ongoing lesson of trust, surrender, and worship–but many days did that. Why should I remember this one, above all others?
For a few reasons. First, I collect dates and have for years. This has sometimes startled people who come into contact with my mental calendars. A few years ago, I was struggling with some serious health concerns that had a rather profound spiritual impact on me. Long story. Anyway, I remarked to a relatively new friend, “Over the past two months, I haven’t been free from fear for a period of longer than twenty-four hours at a given stretch.” My heart was crying out,, “O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), but this friend had no idea what I was thinking and remarked, reasonably enough, “It sounds to me like you’re worrying about worrying, if you measure freedom from fear in hours.”
Oh, but it’s so much deeper than that. Years ago, about six months after I received the Holy Spirit, I was reading the book of Ezekiel when I made a fascinating discovery. Ezekiel recorded the exact dates of most of his prophesies–each time he saw the glory of God, or received a message for the people, or was commanded to demonstrate anything symbolically. Now, I am nothing like Ezekiel–well, except for a love for God!–but I had learned by that time that much of what people in Scripture did was written down for a reason. I had already amassed a vague collection of dates on which God had touched my life, but from that time onward I determined to emulate Ezekiel’s method of careful date-recording–if for no other reason than that this, too, was an act of worship. In my case, I could simply proclaim, “On 16 December 2002, I saw that God is faithful. On 17 December 2002, I saw His power. On 18 December 2002, I reread John 20-21…” And, somehow, remembering these things would be praise to the Lord I had come to love so very much.
The date of my Ezekiel discovery, by the way, was 6 January 2003.
“But why dates in the British format?” you may be asking. I wish I could say that style also harbored spiritual significance, but it doesn’t. “14 April 2013” simply looks more dignified with the day before the month and without the intrusion of a clunky and inelegant comma!
So, that is one reason I celebrate 14 April of last year–my simple propensity for collecting important dates and anniversaries. But there is also this: Until the Lord healed my heart of profound depression on 17 February 2013, there weren’t many dates to collect in my life. I trace the change with difficulty, but as far as I can estimate, my life was rather dateless from 30 August 2012 to 16 February 2013. There were no anniversaries, and looking back on other years’ victories did little for my heart. Sometimes, I tried to create occasions from my chaotic and desolate existence, but they all seemed disingenuous. So, 4 October 2004–a day on which I had received a particularly precious promise from God–went unheeded on 4 October of last year. The dates of my first time taking Communion in private, being filled with His peace following a proverbial storm, the moment He touched me when I was in the hospital once… all of these, likewise, went by without acknowledgement because I almost forgot that they had ever taken place at all. Meanwhile, I couldn’t make enough new memories to fill the void because I did not remember how to rejoice. . I couldn’t very well make a mental record of the twentieth day I had cried myself to sleep or the date on which I could no longer seem to uphold my end of a theological discussion or the occasion of my pleas for God to take me out of this valley, could I?
Frankly, I thought that there might never again be another “14 April”–another day of prayer without ceasing. There might never again be another “9 June”–a day of being fully satisfied in the love of God. So many days that might never be replicated again! So much time–and would I simply have to spend years without being able to see or know God’s presence in my life?
No, beloved reader, and that is why I celebrate 14 April today. I celebrate it because my life is full of dates again. Because, ever since 17 February–the day on which I finally decided to get a guide-dog in 2012 and the day on which Jesus led me back into green pastures in 2013–my life has been full of more anniversaries and dates and occasions than I can count. 19 February 2013: I celebrated His freedom with my sister; told a cashier about His love. 20 February: received good report from a doctor and was strengthened in my trust in the Lord. 26 February: was filled to overflowing with joy; found a new, beautiful, and very unique Algerian worship song. 7 March: met a beautiful sister in Christ and was prayed over in a glorious way that I hadn’t experienced in over a year. 20 March: received a truly exquisite medical report and was deeply convicted that I must put all my trust more fully in God. 12 April: attended a hymn-sing and was fully, thoroughly encouraged by the church as a whole. 14 April: trusted in the Lord all day; prayed about every trial I or my loved-ones encountered; saw that I could remember, acknowledge, and create all those little occasions I had forgotten about during that desert timeframe; rejoiced that I have been truly, completely restored.