I left band practice a lot later than I usually do this week. Not for any specific purpose or reason other than the fact that I don’t have to get up and be at class at 8 AM this week as it is fall break. I took a small, roundabout journey I picked up some food on the way home. When I hopped onto 84th my iPod unexpectedly died because I had left it uncharged for quite some time. So, I did something that I have not done, quite frankly, in probably a decade or more of listening to music in a vehicle.
I turned on the radio.
That probably sounds a little odd or different or whatever adjective you choose to ascribe to it to explain how it affects your sensibilities but it’s true. Since I was old enough to drive I have always had a CD player that I could somehow connect to my car stereo to allow me to listen to my collection of music rather than the trite, corporately controlled nonsense that gets shoved down my throat if I tune into any radio station. Plus there’s ads and commercials. No thanks. That’s part of the reason I don’t watch TV anymore either. But we’re gravitating beyond the purpose of this post so allow me to bring us back
I turned on the radio and went to the only station I knew would have some musical content that I could be ok with. Star 104.5 plays 80’s and 90’s and is the only station that doesn’t immediately make me want to punch my stereo console. I listened to a song I was familiar with and then I heard a voice, one that I had not heard since junior high and it was that of Delilah. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this woman at all but when I was younger my mom would always have her playing on the radio in the kitchen when we were both getting ready in the morning. This voice talked about love (yawn) and took a phone call from a young girl who recounted a story about a phone call she heard on the show a year ago and how that guy’s story made her feel a call toward ministry. Then, of course, she asked for Delilah to play a song. And what would happen next just goes along with the way the rest of my week has gone.
The minute I heard the piano I completely lost it. I bawled my eyes out and for a moment I couldn’t be certain why. It was Marc Cohn’s rendition of “Walking in Memphis”. I sang along with all my might as is mentioned in the song as tears just streamed down my face. I’m glad it was nighttime or I don’t know what the people around me on the interstate would have thought. But anyway, there is a reason my composure was so easily unsettled this evening and I would like to tell you why. But this may step into bounds and territories that some might not understand or… I don’t know, I guess I worry about being judged for my experience. But since I operate sola fide, I think I will be safe. Or unsafe. I guess it doesn’t matter either way. But what I want to tell you is that lately I have been praying. Not that I didn’t pray before but I have been asking for things, mostly help, and lately something’s been happening.
Let me tell you some stories.
So, by chance I happened upon a fellow student that I just somehow knew we’d have a lot in common, someone I could befriend. It was kind of refreshing since it seems that I have been struggling in the college environment and social circles. It was nice to have located someone who had thoughts along the same lines as I. We had some brief interactions here and there since we are both busy running from class to class. Curious as I am, I made the suggestion that perhaps we should find a time where we could grab some coffee and discuss things. But I could not shake this feeling that there was more to it, like I was being led somehow and so I did what I don’t do enough of and that is pray. I asked God what it is I was meant to do, what my place was in this story.
Then I heard a voice.
I can’t explain to you what it sounded like or anything like that. What I can tell you is that I distinctly heard the words “Help her” in my head. I was not entirely appreciative of the vagueness of this response but I accepted it knowing that, at the right time, I would understand. So, this friend and I we purposed to get to gather and, well, fall break became that time and we scheduled it. I got a message asking if she could invite a couple of people whom she had been having some deep discussion the night before. Of course, I would never stifle the chance for good conversation and I knew one of the people and knew it would be an interesting afternoon. So, four of us met up at Starbucks to discuss things.
I was right, but it was more than just interesting. As we got to talking we began to air out some issues we all had been having and, as a group, purposed to be agents of change. The sheer amount of commonality was staggering to me, the stories we all told, the feelings we all had and the desire for change and renewal was overwhelming. It was as if we all knew. The details must remained quiet since there aren’t many other than our goals. But I had this interesting moment after we had prayed and departed from Starbucks we had been hanging out in. I thought about what brought me to that moment and I laughed hysterically. What started as a chance to get to know someone became something bigger because three people had a deep conversation the night before we were supposed to meet up. Those three people then met up with me only to discover we all had the same grievances in our current situations and all of us have a heart and desire for change. And what was I told to do?
Yesterday I was getting ready to do my shoulder and arms workout when I got an IM via Facebook. It was from a person I knew fairly well from work. She asked me if I could do her a favor, that it wouldn’t be a big deal and asked that I not be weirded out. That sounded easy enough so I agreed thinking it was going to be about asking for a loan or if I could make sure something got done at work. I was expecting something simple and worldly. What I got was the exact opposite of that when she asked me, “Can you help me find my faith again?” Clearly the task was more than she let on but I was happy to be of any assistance that I could be. So, after talking some I determined the best thing to start with was a reading assignment. I asked God for more help on this one because this person was different somehow.
Then I heard a voice.
“Ecclesiastes”. I shook my head as if I had a short in there that I needed to shake back into place. That just doesn’t make any sense. All the stories I’ve heard people always ask the person they’re helping to read the Gospel of John. Personally, I think that’s bad policy. Not that I don’t love John but it’s got one of the most confusing beginnings of a book in all of scripture. Of course, I couldn’t pick the masterful writing of that particular gospel. Instead, I suggest one of the most cynical books in all of the Bible. But it’s worked out well I think and I keep praying God continues to do his work. It’s been amazing to be a part of it this last week. I am so unbearably grateful.
I think sometimes YHWH speaks in ways that his children understand. So, when I heard “Walking in Memphis” and started crying I took it almost as a sign that I had listened and my heart was in the right place, that I had been faithful. There’s a line in the song where he talks about a woman at a place called the Hollywood who asks him to sing a little number. He says, “I sang with all my might. She said, ‘Tell me, are you a Christian, child?'” and I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight'” That’s kind of what it felt like. Not that I’m not a Christian other times but in that moment, when I heard that song I felt as if that relationship was somehow fortified in a way I hadn’t experienced in a while. Maybe ever.
So, I kept my radio on as I got home and something else that could only have been providence. The radio show made me think of my mom and how things were growing up. When Delilah was done with her show she said her goodnights and exhorted her listeners to love. Then she put on a song that I can remember coming out of the same stereo I heard Delilah on in the mornings and it was “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Ethridge. Kind of funny and affirming in a way. But what I can tell you with great certainty that this week has been insane and difficult and joyful and all sorts of things all at once. And all because…
I heard a voice.