When you’re missionaries or church planters or whatever you want to call people in that sort of ministry, you sometimes (often….) have some fairly small meetings. It’s your family and a few others and so from a tender age, you instruct your children to make sure they belt out the hymns. Actual singing ability is left up to the debate of the few faithful who are still learning the tunes themselves so basically, just give it what you got. I try to be a good example to my children, despite having a little raspy singing voice and so puff up my lungs and do my best to add a couple decibels to the melodious ancient words.
Last night a brother asked for 310. As soon as I heard the number, I knew that despite my best efforts, the words just weren’t going to make it past my throat. I wished my husband away in the front row could have looked back and I would have at least been able to mouth, “sorry, I can’t sing that one.” But of course, he is very disciplined and doesn’t do any looking back so I just sat there with my hyperactive 16 month old and my tormented thoughts.
I love hymn #310. It’s actually one of my favorites. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word! In Spanish, our version goes on for 7 beautiful verses full of promises and blessed hope. It’s a hymn to get you through dark, dark days. Words to embed themselves in your soul.
But once those dark days are shadows of the past, those words when heard work something like a highway, zooming your heart at high speed back into a penumbral land of tears and fear.
So we were sitting at 6:30 pm in a little hot, concrete hall. No breeze, no relief from the heat. The sun going down, the mosquitos coming alive. And all around me, the voices are lifted up singing of the deep waters and the fire and I’m sitting in the back of a Red Cross ambulance. I’m speeding across the Yucatán Peninsula and in my arms is my little baby. That morning he had a second severe near death breathing crisis and the pediatrician finally decided it was time for a proper NICU in a city nearly 5 hours away. By the time the paperwork was done and the ambulance had come, it was evening with night falling soon after.
They let me hold my little boy. My brave little Damian. They speak of bravery often today. Brave books, brave marches, brave posts. The world doesn’t know true bravery. Just 6 weeks old, suffering from whooping cough without complaint, without tears. Just gentleness and beauty.
So I held him tight and nursed and nursed him. And sang until I could sing no more.
Verse two in Spanish says something like this:
If you find yourself sick or totally healthy If you find yourself poor or rich, At home or traveling by land or sea As your day, so will be your strength.
And as I’m traveling through the night with a sick baby, burning up again with extreme fever, I’m wondering where that strength is. “Oh Lord, I’m so afraid, so alone (there were three males accompanying me: driver, dr and nurse). My baby, oh my precious baby! Please, please, please heal him.”
I’ve written before of this, but it seems selfish to abstain from telling the world again.
Jesus, the Christ, my Savior Himself came down from Heaven and sat with me in that ambulance. He came. I know He did. And He rode with me during those long, frightening hours.
Ah, that day I had no more strength. What was given was not even extra strength. He gave me Himself. His very presence was what got me through.
I’m overcome again with tears and humility. That’s why I can’t sing that song. It is too bittersweet. If I try, I dissolve into a puddle of salt and pain and love. Love for my baby and love for my Lord.
That was almost seven years ago. Seven years and I still can’t easily deal with the sight of an ambulance. Seven years of missing my boy. Seven years of resting in Jesus whose love for me is so abundant, so amazing, so humbling. From an eye witness, the hymn is so, so true:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”
Not even when He decides to take your baby Home after all. Not even when life isn’t anything like what you imagined or wanted.
HE DOES NOT FORSAKE!!!!