Oh, how I have longed to pen this fourth part of the wondrous things the Lord has begun, and will continue, in me!—and what a delight it is to do so now. I began Part I on 21 May, though I did not publish it then. This means that, from at least the time of my beginning this series until now—a glorious three weeks and two days!—the Lord has kept aflame all that He is doing. It is beyond comprehension, the things that the Lord can do. However, I am beginning to see something that I had not anticipated. There is no possible way to expound upon God’s glory in one tidy “final” part, so I will be continuing this series indefinitely, for as long as it takes. In GOD’S SMUGGLER, THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE, THE HIDING PLACE, THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE ON EARTH, etc., John and Elizabeth Sherrill taught me that the best Christian testimonies/memoirs/autobiographical sketches are comprised of detail upon detail. If faith, hope, and love are the multi-colored threads that must be woven into a tapestry in order to create something beautiful, details are the cloth that upholds that embroidery.
But I am getting very much ahead of myself. Let us begin with 7 May. In most ways, that Wednesday was like any other. True, I had received worship music in the mail, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. I’m always buying worship music; sometimes, I listen to it right away, and other times, I let it sit on my iPod for three years before plunging into a sea of new, beautiful, congregational adoration. That day’s music actually consisted of two DVDs, which I promptly sat down to convert to MP3 files using Audacity. Hey, they’re my DVDs, and I don’t plan to sell the audio material I extracted—you wouldn’t want it anyway. This is unique music. Unique or not, though, you must know that it was what I listened to exclusively from 2002-2003. We didn’t have much in the way of worship music, so I took what we had and ran with it. What we happened to have were two obscure, independently-produced VHS tapes of Christian children’s music. My beloved readers, if you were stranded on a deserted island with only the International Children’s Bible, I can guarantee that you would be studying it before long! And so, this was worship. Every sung and exclaimed “hosanna” and “hallelujah”, every account of His cleansing, every mention of the name of Jesus, every celebration of His goodness. And why did I buy these DVDs anew? Because, if nothing else, I wished to catalogue an era—to scrapbook it, as it were, and to make an audio picture of where I had been spiritually in the months after receiving the Holy Spirit. Very mature, intellectually-sound aims, don’t you think?
Now, a project like this actually requires me to stay with the computer and make sure that everything is running smoothly. JAWS, Audacity, and Windows Media Player don’t always play nicely in the sandbox. So, there I was, sitting in my sanctuary—though I could never have known then what a great moment of worship would unfold—and wrapped up in blankets and heating pads, for the evening was chilly. For two hours, I listened to that music. For two hours, I found myself remembering every nuance and every note of joy in the singers’ voices. And for one-and-a-half of those hours, I found myself singing the name of Jesus, and the word “hosanna”, and the concept of His cleansing, with all my might, just as I did during that 2002 era of innocence and of “no worship music”. But how could I have said that? Whether it’s a five-year-old singing or a seasoned sixty-five-year-old raising reverent anthems to our Lord, are they not both worshiping Him?
Mature, intellectual aims quickly faded into the background, and as they did, the Lord began reminding me of things I had long chosen to forget. How I would awaken during those early days of seeking—and finding!—with a song already on my lips. How I would bring the Bible to the small high-school I attended and read between classes, during lunch, and anytime a visual movie was being shown and I somehow couldn’t participate. How I would come home from school, do homework and read the Bible with my beloved baby sister, enjoy a cup of very cheap hot chocolate as though it were an imported delicacy because of my gratitude to our Savior, bask in the joyful knowledge that I had somehow managed to complete most of my own homework earlier in the day so I could worship, and then proceed to do just that. Late, late at night, when I was certain that everyone else was asleep, I sneaked out into the living room, turned on the television, hope that the loud buzzing would not wake anyone else, insert one of those two precious videos into the VCR, turn the volume down as low as humanly possible while still being able to catch every third or fourth phrase, and sing deep inside with no words, but with all my heart. That was the best and only use I ever found for the family television! When my heart had been satisfied, I quietly put away the video and the remote control and tiptoed back to bed. I wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble for being up so late on school nights—I was one of those teenagers who was given a little more freedom just because my mind worked differently; I was also permitted to get up at the crack of dawn to do my homework rather than completing it all at night, and I often did just that. No, I wasn’t afraid of being found out, but of being interrupted. This was my most precious worship time—never mind that it happened to be taking place in a highly-centralized location.
As I listened to this precious music and contemplated the ways in which I used to go about enjoying it twelve years earlier, the Lord began to minister something truly wonderful to me. Gradually, He showed me that He could restore all of that joy and innocence, all of that purity and peace, to my heart. Once again, I could be filled with a freedom in worship that would override the need to explain to my readers why I might happen to have children’s music in my possession—less excusing my “unintellectual” actions, more exuberance in Him. Deep in my heart, I knew that He was promising to heal emotional and spiritual traumas that had broken me for over eight years, wounds that had been mine since 2006. Soon, they would all be gone, and only His glory would remain. If I would only accept His work in my life, He would return all my wasted years, those myriad moments I had spent in loneliness and self-pity rather than in His Shekinah glory.
In my last post, I wrote that the Lord had called me to repent, but that I had resisted for three days. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. I wanted all He was going to provide, and, much more importantly, I wanted to please Him and to live in His presence. As soon as I realized what the Lord was beginning to do, I said, “Yes, Lord.” Just that. Right there in my worship sanctuary/prayer closet, with that lovely music still playing, I ran and leapt and danced in the freedom I knew I was being given. In many ways, my reaction was like that of Simon Peter—jumping into the sea and swimming toward Jesus rather than waiting for his boat to be rowed ashore, or asking Jesus to wash not only his feet but also his head and his hands. Joyous and trusting to a great extent, but somewhat impetuous. Oh, I should absolutely have surrendered to God and accepted gladly all that He was doing, but—well, you’ll see what happened.
In that moment, I believed God’s restoration had all been given to me at once, and that I was prepared to go out the very next day and conquer the world. Does this remind you again of Peter, walking on the sea toward Jesus but sinking at the sight of the waves? That was me—praising God for what He had done, not what He was doing or what He would do, and then falling flat on my face the next day.
That Thursday, 8 May, was the date of Naomi’s monthly infusion. I always go along, simply because the infusion seems symbolic of how far the Lord has brought us. On this day, something happened with one of Naomi’s nurses that made me profoundly uncomfortable. I made the mistake of over-inflating my distress and sharing it with anyone who would listen, much to the heartache of all involved. Oh, I begged for forgiveness—from God, and from others. But even then, even after Hannah and I had gone for a long walk in the cool breeze, even after I had sat in one of my favorite outdoor places to worship and listened to Don Moen’s “I Want to Know You More”, even as Hannah and I walked home and picked lilacs along the way, I felt defeated. I did not know what had happened to the promises of the previous evening, but I was quite sure that I had not been set free after all, and might not be… Indefinitely. I cried out to the Lord without any real expectation and resolved to go back to whatever shrinking, unemboldened ways I had attempted to forsake. I was unchanged, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. True, actually, I could do nothing more, but His power is far greater than mine—how much pain I could have been spared had I chosen to remember that! . But—oh! How great is His mercy!—for the Lord did not allow me to languish in my miserable failure for long, but stretched out His hand and lifted me from the waves, asking in the process, “Where is your faith?”…
Addendum: All right, I’m going to go out on a shaky, intimidating limb and use as my worship title one of the songs that so blessed me on 7 May, a little worship anthem by Rob Evans and something ostensibly for children. Are we not all children of God? And therefore, does not the song “Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna”, from the DVD/video ON TOUR, more than qualify as legitimate praise? “Shout Hosanna” it is! As performed live, the song features exuberant clapping and the waving of palm branches, a discussion of the Triumphal Entry and of following the Great Commission, and so many moments of pure praise. Its freedom reflects what I had on that wonderful evening and what I was very soon to have again, though I did not know it at the time.