Monday, December 24, 2012

The Forgotten Verse

when i was young and my family would go to church we would attend a small southern baptist congregation. almost all services would end with an elderly man leading the small group of parishioners in the 1st and 4th verse of an old hymn - "just as i am". i remember wondering why we only sang those verses. why did we skip over the 2nd and 3rd? i assumed the old man liked those better than the others. i  don't recall any of the words. it had to do with coming to Jesus without trying to fix ourselves, just as i am and nothing more... or something to that effect. the song itself didn't have any particular effect on me but the fact that we were purposely omitting part of the author's message or intention was a bit bothersome. sometimes, i would quietly sing the 2nd and 3rd verses just to give them voice every now and again.

i encountered the forgotten verse again some years later. i would hear the song "how he loves" by john mark mcmillan during a worship service for the  first time. this song did make a heavy impression on me. at first chance, i bought this album. i was sure the other songs were good too but i skipped straight to "how he loves". as the song was coming to an end and i was preparing to hit the repeat button john started into another verse, one i had never before heard; one previously ignored or forgotten or deemed unnecessary. the emotion was so thick. john was weeping as he sang  from a deep place uncommon in "christian music". i was frozen as i considered the gravity of this verse which seemed to be the context in which the rest of the song's message could be discovered. i felt as if a secret was shared with me. in these hidden lines there was a voice that changed my whole understanding of His love.

like the majority of those whose hearts have been laid bare by the more widely accepted verses (with or without the 'sloppy wet kiss') of that song, singing of God's great love for his people struck the deepest chord of my soul. the imagery and transparency of the lyrics seemed to give breath to a deep emotion that i had longed to exhale. i began to not only believe, but to realize that His love is beautiful. His love is beyond words. i started to see that His love can only be experienced in raw vulnerability and, after i had heard, most deeply from a place of pain... the verse --

I thought about you
The day Stephen died
And you met me between my breaking
I know that I still love you God
Despite the agony
See people they want to tell me your cruel
But if Stephen could sing
He'd say its not true
Cause your good

i was caught off guard. i wept in that moment. these words were cutting. they were not easy. they were born in a moment where the easy choice for the author would have been to mentally negate the idea of a loving and caring God.  had i been in his place... i don't know that i would have written such words. my small understanding of God's love was being confronted in those few moments. he had buried a close friend. he had endured the pain of knowing the presence of a precious loved one would never be felt again. and yet, his response was to consider God's love rather than his own suffering.

last Friday i was reminded of that awakening. children, as close as humanity can be to innocence, murdered. i couldn't understand the why or the how of any of it as i sat at work trying to hide my tears. i suppose i tried to make sense of it by telling myself that this physical earth is broken; that nothing should come as a surprise when considering that humanity is inherently capable of horrible cruelty. that wasn't enough to curb the anger and the sadness... or the fear of being wrong about everything which that day brought. my mind wanted to blame God or somehow detach any sense of justice i had identified with Him. my mind wanted to ask, why the children? why are we stricken with such constant heartache? my conclusion was that He must not care. if He could do something why wouldn't He? He must be cruel. as my confusion and heartbreak began to take root, something reminded me of that forgotten verse, how in that moment years ago i had almost felt john mark mcmillan's pain of loss but also been given hope. that if those we lost could sing they would tell us that God is not unkind. in a moment i imagined children's voices singing "He's good... He loves us". i was broken. i wept. i was swayed from despair toward hope. though the loss cannot be understood, there is comfort in the love of God. He reached through the grief-influenced lyrics of that forgotten verse and met me in my breaking and gently whispered His love to me again.

i believe every heart has a forgotten verse. there is a dream that we have buried because we think it is unworthy or unnecessary or inferior. just as the words of that song that have been ignored for so long give it the life that it was meant to have so too will breathing out our heart's song bring our true selves, the self that God formed, to the light and pour hope to unseen others.

Uncover your forgotten verse...


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