Song Story/Week Six
When I was in my early twenties, driving down to Nashville for some songwriting worships, I got lost in St. Louis. There I was all by myself, in a little red Chevette driving circles in a very unfamiliar landscape. I knew I was really off the well beaten track when I spied a family warming themselves over a barrel fire in an abandoned parking lot.
The idea of Christmas being magical is an idea I love, but for so many it just isn't their reality. It certainly wasn't for baby Jesus either. I wonder what percentage of the world population lives through Christmas like any other season of the year, because all their time and energy is spent on surviving?
I got married and had children, and the burning desire to minister hope to others increased. One Christmas I found myself unpacking sound equipment in the alley behind the Mustard Seed in Calgary. The other musicians were late and I just went about my business knowing we had a schedule to keep. When I went through the backdoor of the building I was met with horror and surprise. What was a young woman doing in the alley by herself at night? I assured the staff that I was fine and loaded the equipment onto a stage that overlooked the dining tables. They pitched right in to help.
Once we set up, the kitchen crew insisted they dish my plate before the tables got too full. I wasn't sure where to sit and was really hoping the rest of our team would arrive so I could sit with them. I saw a young woman sitting by herself and asked if I could join her. She nodded and I sat down. A few minutes later, while eating her food in a puddle of nasal discharge, she asked me if I would watch for her husband and wave him over. It was then I realized she was blind. She couldn't see the box of Kleenex inches from her plate. She would not be able to see her husband come through the door.
I was so naive and told her I would watch for her husband and wave him over to join us. Moments later he appeared. He was a tall tree swaying in a drunken stupor and wearing the blue jacket she said he would be wearing. I couldn't ask her to confirm if he was the right guy. If I waved him over what would happen? Hopefully he would see his wife sitting beside me. Between the obvious ill health of my table mate and the condition of her husband - I had lost my appetite. I was extremely sad, afraid and lonely, perhaps the best prelude needed to sing from the heart.
The other musicians arrived, one of which was a tall tree, sober, sturdy and strong. Suddenly my shoulders relaxed. We started our first set and then it happened. My new friend in the blue jacket approached the stage while we were in the middle of our second song. I don't think the song was 'God is Near', but this memorable experience inspired me to write it. I wasn't sure what to do, but as he pounded his fist on the stage and swore, I just stopped singing. The music halted, and I approached him gingerly.
I couldn't hear him very well and had to bend my ear close to his face. Through the sharp smell of liquor and the sour scent of soiled clothes, his words wafted. "Could you sing Amazing Grace?" he asked. I stood up straight and looked around at the band, with tears welling in my eyes and repeated his request. Whether we all knew the same version, the order of verses, or even started in the right key, we were going to try. As we sang my new friend stood in the middle of the room, oblivious to staring eyes, and sang along with us. He knew every word and God was near.
That night I had help reloading my vehicle in the alley, but drove home alone, thankful I had a home to go to. My husband and children were snug in their beds and oblivious to my divine adventure. I was exhausted. While driving through the snow I found myself singing through tears interrupted with bouts of joyous laughter.
I got home and crawled on the basement couch so as not to wake my husband upstairs, besides I wasn't sure the adrenaline running through my veins would allow me to sleep. My peripheral caught the clock just before drifting off, glowing 1:00 a.m. Soon I heard a whisper in my ear, and a gentle prodding. "Cindy, wake up, wake up" my husband repeated. "Your friend is in the hospital in labor and her husband is away" he explained. I looked at the clock - 6:00 a.m. Up I jumped and drove to the hospital with a curious smile on my face. How privileged was I to experience God's presence amidst strangers, and soon in the company of my friend and her brand new baby girl!
"God is Near" I whispered to myself.