Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve had with my little family and our friends. It’s probably the first time I’ve properly belly laughed in about two months and it was wonderful. You see, like most people, we’ve been going through a storm; probably one of the worst storms of my life so far and there have been times when, honestly, I thought it would swallow me up. Have you ever felt that? Like you’re stuck in a deep hole of despair that feels so deep that you don’t know whether you can ever climb out of it? Sounds dramatic if you’ve never been there but honestly, that’s how it’s felt at times. My mother, whom I talk about often, taught me years ago, the importance of having a song that you sing to your soul when things go wrong. A song in a storm, if you will. When I was younger, I used to think she was mad when I’d catch her in the kitchen, tears streaming down her face, humming a tune over and over again, because, probably, she was too sad to sing yet. And she has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard, but I’m probably biased! And she’d hum and hum for days, sometimes. And then, almost out of nowhere, it would seem, she’d find her voice and she’d sing out a beautiful tune. And over time I got to learn her song. And I’d wait for the words to come; because then I’d know that my mother was no longer sad. I didn’t realise this until a couple of months ago that my soul, too, like hers, needed a song. Except, unlike her, I didn’t know what mine really was! I love singing, I’m not the best singer but I love nothing more than singing at the top of my lungs, be it in church or in the shower. But the past couple of months, I really found it hard to sing- especially in church. And that’s when I learned how hard it is to sing when your heart is breaking. And that I have never really understood why my mum had to hum. So I began to pray and ask God to give me a song or to remind me of my soul’s song. And then something remarkable happened; this hum came over me and I began to hum and hum over and over again a song that My heart knew but the words of which, my mind had temporarily forgotten. But as I hummed, the lump in my throat got smaller and smaller. You see, I’d forgotten that when we had the car accident a few years ago, God gave me a song to sing; and the time before that, when I was lying in hospital, pregnant with our now four year old son, vomiting for eight months, hooked up to an I.V with only the sound of the beeping machines for company in the middle of the night, not knowing whether our son would be healthy or whether I’d make it through the pregnancy strong enough to actually deliver him, God gave me the same song. In fact, every time we’ve faced a health challenge, like the threat of cancer or a really hard diagnosis about my daughter, the Holy Spirit would, ever so gently, put a song in my heart. And it’d be stuck in my head for days like a broken record, except more often than not, I wouldn’t have the courage to voice it out. But it was there; reminding me that He’s always there. Moving mountains for me. He was there when my mum first went into labour 30-odd years ago, at home, with no one around and had to deliver me by herself, in her bedroom. He was there to supervise my first intake of breath and to knit together my belly button as my mum, only a few years younger than I am now, had to learn to cut the umbilical cord by herself, with scissors that were never meant for that. He was there when I took my first steps and there when those little legs, only ten years old at the time, had to learn to run away from the sounds of bullets and the scary feat of fleeing from home. He was there in the refugee camps and the days ahead to provide shelter and food for me and my family. He was there actually, not just through the lows but also through the highs. I think we are really quick to recognise him in the storm because honestly, that’s when most of us scream for help. But we fail to recognise him when our table is spread, our bellies are full and our hearts overflowing. And yet there he is, with his robe tied around his waist, serving us. In every sunrise, every sunset, in every single moment of joy, serving us with love. He’s there in every breathtaking view of the mountains or the sea or the beautiful sight and sound of the crashing waves. It was him, today, in that photo you took where you felt like the world could stand still. It’s him in nature and in the sound of the birds and the laughter of our children. It’s him when your heart is bursting with love and it is racing like it’s going to fall out of your chest. He is the breath in your lungs and the taste in your buds and the blood that flows through your veins, it is ELOHIM. And sadly, most of us never seem to recognise him in the sun. We only seem to blame him for the rain. Yet he never fails us, ever. You may be like, ‘really? Well I can think of a few times!’ And honestly, I’ve felt that, too. But I’m learning the importance of seeing life, not from the perspective of my heartbreak but from the vantage view of eternity. Because so often my perspective gets so murky. And I can’t see clearly. And I’m probably mixing metaphors but please bear with me. Because ALL I can see in front of me is the giant mountain I’ve got to climb that I really can’t see the way to anything else. Or if we go back to the analogy of the giant hole, it’s the same idea; will I ever make it out of this alive? A couple of months ago, while in New York, on the 102nd floor of the new World Trace Centre, I had a really good picture of this. There I was, fresh in the middle of my heartbreak, the pain of it still stinging, staring at the breathtaking views of Manhattan and I remember going ‘wow’ because I was SO impressed by what I was seeing. And then I heard a voice say to me, ‘ my view is better than this; I see every detail in every life on every single street that you can see there below and more- come and stand with me’. And that’s when I recognised it as his invitation to his table. And the reason why the Psalmist says that God prepares a table before us is because he wants us to join him where he is, not to be stuck where we are. Because our view is SO limited. Well, mine definitely is! And I forget easily and even if I remembered, I do not have the vantage view of eternity to be able to see things from the perspective of the one who made it all. Who made me. Who supervised by very first breath. Who breathed it there in the first place. Who knitted me with his own two hands. And the song is a reminder for my soul to go higher and to join him where he is, right there, waiting, at the table. Inviting me to eat of the goodness he has for me, even with a lump in my throat. And even if I need to hum until I can sing, that’s ok; if I never sing or can’t even sing for a while, that’s ok, too. But the song in the storm reminds me that he has been there, moving mountains to set tables right in the middle of my circumstances. And if he did it then, he can do it now. So if, like me, you’re in the place where it’s really hard to sing, can I share with you a couple of songs in the storm that have given me the courage to come to the table? And as you hum or sing, or not, I hope your soul begins to remember all the ways he has been there before, moving mountains, setting tables, making things beautiful again, little by little. And as it does, I hope you, too, hear the invitation to come up higher and to stand next to the one who sees it all, from beginning to the end. And may you then feel such peace, my friend, that allows you to catch your breath again, even in the middle of your storm.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 23:1-6 NIV