There were no children, no babies, no creche, a bare scattering of teenagers and lots of grey heads and lots of walking sticks. A man on the keyboard set to a piano setting played hymns – hymns sung in their original tunes.
I can almost see you yawning. I know people who are not hymn singers and who thrive on the energy that some gatherings generate. Sometimes, however, that can all be a distraction – just sometimes. It was in the quiet whisper that Elijah heard God speak. I’m not sure what God was saying to anyone else but He didn’t pull any punches with me.
The days began with a prayer meeting. The first morning there were half a dozen keen souls there. As the week progressed the numbers increased.
Don’t you feel sometimes that there can be a predictability about church meetings? Maybe in the prayer meeting there are the same people praying, perhaps for the same things, perhaps even using the same words. We like patterns and familiarity. We like what we know and distrust the new.
I was falling into the pattern one prayer meeting morning. I was nodding the head and saying “Amen” and not just at the end of the prayer. Did I say there were no signs and wonders? Not the visible kind? Well, that wasn’t entirely true.
I had a picture – incredibly vivid. Out of nowhere a fist appeared. It rammed itself into my chest and ripped out my heart. The fist shook the heart violently. You know those times when your watch stops ticking and you give it a solid shake and then check to see if the second hand is moving? It was that kind of shaking – but not gentle. The heart didn’t seem to be beating so the fist slammed it hard down on the table. You have been to the first aid sessions in work with however many breaths to the mouths and compressions on the chest? Sometimes when the heart stops a soft push won’t change anything and you are told to not worry about breaking a rib with the force of the compression? It was kind of like that – a forceful move to get my heart beating. Remember this is just a picture? It’s not a physical real thing? Satisfied the heart was now pumping properly, the fist thrust it back into the cavity. My gasp was a real one! My eyes shot wide open and my hand clutched over my heart.
“That’s better,” said God, smiling.
I’m still gasping. My eyes are still stretched wide and it feels like all the patterns and familiarities are on an old path that I’m no longer on. I feel like I am treading strange ground.
The final hymn, Blessed Assurance, the final verse and chorus – there was a bit of me singing, because I like the hymn, and a bit of me telling me not to sing, because it wasn’t true for me.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Saviour am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
“This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.
It’s not story. It’s not my song. I’m not in perfect submission. I’m not at rest. So much of me feels like a battleground. I’m not watching or waiting or looking above. The world and all its concerns, the politics and the poverty and my own day to day survival consumes me. It’s not my story at all.
Gideon, threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. And what does the angel of call hum? “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon would be yelling out at this point “That’s not my story. That’s not my song” as he gripped the scythe in the winepress and searched the hills for the Midianites.
“Not yet. Not today. But soon.” That’s what God was saying.
My heart thumping, my eyes stretched open – perfect submission, rest, eyes looking always above – “Not yet. Not today. But soon.” Says God to me.