Friday, December 05, 2008

From Famine To Feast

When I was a little girl, Mom, Allie and I attended Reynolda Presbyterian Church. The church building is considered a historical landmark to most folks in Winston-Salem and it is still one of the images that first comes to mind when I think of church. I recall standing beside my mom during the Sunday service, staring up at the large light fixtures and counting shapes in the stain glass windows. In the winter the stone floor gave off a chill that managed to penetrate the white or navy tights I was forced to wear. I still remember the feel of the time worn wood of the pew in front of me.

While I asked Jesus into my heart on the way to kindergarten one day (out of reverence Mom did pull the car over for this momentous occasion), my impression of him in those early elementary years was that of a grand and imposing God watching my every move and anticipating any naughty decision I might make. Please don't misunderstand me, I still loved church and everything that went along with it. However, God and I simply weren't on intimate terms just yet. My preference was to read the latest Babysitter's Club book rather than glean wisdom from Pastor Robinson's sermon.

What I couldn't understand was how much Mom was receiving from those Sunday mornings. In particular, I have the most vivid memory of watching her as we sang worship songs. While I could sing the words and know even then of how much I loved the music, there was a spiritual undercurrent of emotion that I could not comprehend. Raised hands were a puzzle to me. Why did she do that? Was she wanting to answer a question God has asked? Was this an adult version of Bible Sword Drills? I did not know.

The gesture most bewildering was when Mom would simply close her eyes and refrain from singing. This bothered my sense of social participation tremendously. I can vaguely recall feeling embarrassed and self-conscious that my mom wasn't joining in and doing what we were "supposed" to be doing. She should be singing. Her eyes should be open.

I asked her one time why she did that. She told me, "Sometimes I like to just listen to the singing around me. When I close my eyes and don't sing, I can focus on the words and what they really mean to me. Sometimes it helps me to better hear what Jesus is trying to teach me." The explanation was satisfactory enough for my eight year old mind and I did not give it any more personal thought. I still wished she wouldn't embarrass me and, unfortunately, that sentiment was to continue well into my teenage years. Ah, youth.

Last night was not the first time in which I have realized that my mom did an excellent job of modeling worship for Allie and me. But it was a night where my gratitude for what she taught us by her actions was close to overwhelming. Her simple explanation rang in my ears and I willingly followed her example, unhindered by embarrassment or self-consciousness.

I closed my eyes and let the glorious voices of Travis and the choir wash over me. They satisfied an ache in my heart and yet made that ache more acute all at the same time. It was truth and beauty. It was comfort and encouragement. It was the glory of God moving through willing vessels.

Hear the heart of heaven beating, “Jesus saves. Jesus saves.”
And the hush of mercy breathing, “Jesus saves. Jesus saves.”
Hear the host of angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”
And the sounding joy repeating, “Jesus saves.”

The simplest of refrains. Jesus saves. And doesn't he? From all manner of things He delivers us just when we think it is not possible. From selfishness, from darkness, from lonliness, from shame, from guilt. He is the Savior, after all.

He will live our sorrow sharing.
He will die our burden bearing.
“It is done!” will shout the cross, Christ has paid redemption’s cost!
While the empty tomb’s declaring, "Jesus saves."

My heart felt as if it would burst with joy from the knowledge that Jesus has known my sorrows and struggles. I have not been alone all this time. He has been right there with me. I have known that in my head but my heart, the make-up of who I am, requires that those words be sung to me in order for me to fully understand them. That is where He teaches me. When I close my eyes, shut out all the other distractions and listen to the worship around me...that is when I hear Him most clearly.

Freedom’s calling, chains are falling, hope is dawning bright and true.
Day is breaking, night is quaking, God is making all things new. Jesus saves!

God is making all things new...this is the lyric that grabs hold of my heart and soul. This is the lyric that brings on the tears. These are the words that offer sweet relief. God has not and will not leave me as I am. He is making all things new. It is a promise that I have clung to in this last year and one that feels as if it is finally being brought to fruition.

This morning I attempted to tell Jason about the concert and how it impacted me. The tears came once again. I finally looked up at him and said, "Music is how God speaks to me. It's been so long since I've been in a place that offered that kind of worship. My heart was so overwhelmed because it's like I've been stuck in a famine and finally was able to feast last night." He nodded knowingly. He understands this because his heart is similar to mine in that way.

I needed no other words.

Oh to grace, how great a debtor! Jesus saves. Jesus saves.
All the saints who shout together- I know that Jesus saves!
Rising up so vast and strong lifting up salvation’s song,
The redeemed will sing forever, the redeemed will sing forever,
"Jesus saves..."

("Jesus Saves" - music & lyrics by Travis Cottrell)


  1. Wow. For once, words fail me.

  2. Sounds like it was a wonderful concert.


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